Hefestus Ltd. has unveiled what the Israel-based company calls a breakthrough in fresh produce packaging that can extend the shelf life of cherries to more than 20 days.

The key is the company’s modified atmosphere packaging technology, said Greg Levy, president of ARPAC-Hefestus USA, Schiller Park, Ill., which is marketing the equipment in North America.

“We do it in a manner where we’re able to modify the atmosphere inside of the container prior to its being sealed,” he said. “We can get oxygen out and gas in without using a mechanical vacuum. That’s the magic.”

By not using vacuum pumps, the equipment offers a more gentle approach to replacing the oxygen, Levy said.

The process, developed in Israel, is called shelf life booster or SLB. The technology not only allows processors to double fresh cherries’ shelf life but also maintains the fruit’s appearance, firmness and freshness, according to Oded Shtemer, president and chief executive officer of Hefestus Ltd.

“SLB technology allows our customers to reduce the costs of packaging materials and improves our environmental profile by using environmentally friendly packaging,” he said in a news release.

ARPAC-Hefestus USA markets two packaging machines that offer SLB. The Athena is a compact unit for smaller facilities, while the Hercules is for high-speed operations that pack up to 30 trays per minute, Levy said.

“We’re relatively new to the U.S., but we’ve had good success in Israel, Europe, Asia and Africa,” he said.

The Athena and Hercules systems have been re-engineered for the U.S. market and are manufactured at ARPAC’s Illinois headquarters, Levy said.