After years of searching, Dole Food has adopted a technology that ripens bananas on shipping containers — allowing clients to distribute the fruit without putting it in ripening rooms, the company said.

New Hampton, N.Y.-based Balchem Corp. developed the device — a briefcase-like metal box containing ethylene release canisters. Balchem makes the units and together with Dole offers them to the grower-shipper's customers. New Zealand-based Institute for Plant and Food Research participated in an earlier phase of the project.

The canisters release ethylene gas at a controlled rate for shipping times from one to seven days, ripening the fruit.

“If customers are on promotion and want additional fruit, this would be something they could use to add capacity,” said Bil Goldfield, Dole communications manager. “It adds flexibility. There is the advantage of less handling regardless.”

Reduced handling means less shrink, bruising and box rub, Goldfield said.

“Some will want to continue with traditional ripening, but ripening rooms are aging and expensive to develop,” he said. “In this economy not necessarily everybody wants to invest in refurbishing ripening rooms.”

Testing sites for the technology included Dole facilities in Costa Rica.

It was not the first attempt at container ripening.

“Other companies looked at this avenue before, but this was the first one we’ve really found that works consistently well,” Goldfield said. “It’s a technology we think works.”

So far, Dole has no plans to use it on other commodities.

“Right now we’re just focusing on bananas,” Goldfield said.

(Note on correction: Balchem is the sole developer of the ethylene release canisters; the original article said it was a joint development. Balchem and Dole jointly market the service to Dole customers.)

Dole offers on-board banana ripening

Courtesy Dole Food

A metal briefcase-size device contains canisters that release ethylene gas to ripen bananas in shipping containers. Dole Food, Balchem Corporation and the Institute for Plant and Food Research partnered on the technology.