Located in Petén, Guatemala, Agrícola Valle Alto is a producer, packer and marketer of the Tainung 1 papaya variety. “The weight of the fruit is 0.9 kilos to 2 kilos per unit, with a brix of 9 to 13, and its colour is orange,” said Alex Palma, commercial manager. With year-round production, the 312-hectare farm produces between 20,000 and 30,000 15kg boxes per week, which are exported mainly to the US (transit time by ship is 4-5 days) and to Central America. In addition to ripe papaya, the firm also exports green papaya, which is fruit that has not yet started its ripening process and is mainly destined for use in green salads or other Asian dishes. “Our goal is to grow, so that our papaya is known throughout the world. This year we hope to export to Canada and Europe, although they are more complicated markets because it requires air freight and is therefore more expensive. But we have received many proposals from logistics service companies that I think will allow us to arrive there,” said Palma. In order to expand, the company will have to increase its production area and volumes, since it is currently operating at 90% capacity already. Agrícola Valle Alto is working to reduce waste, and is using postharvest treatment products that are based on thyme and other plant extracts. In the field, it uses pheromones to ward off insects, as well as other types of environmentally friendly solutions.
Biodegradable bottles made from juice wastewater are the goals of the the EU-funded PHBOTTLE project, due to end this month.
The manufacturing process envisaged would tap into growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and could save industry millions in production costs, according to an article published on a European Commission Research & Innovation website.
The bottles would be made of a bioplastic obtained by the fermentation of the sugar-rich fruit juices in production waste.
In the early stages of the project, the researchers demonstrated how a bioreactor could be used to convert the sugars from juice wastewater into polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), a type of biopolymer (an organic compound). PHB is moisture and vapour resistant, won’t dissolve on contact with water, has see-through properties and offers good protection against oxygen.
The researchers also developed a process to strengthen the PHB with cellulose extracted from crop waste, and added an encapsulated antioxidant to increase the shelf-life of the bottle’s contents. Another advantage is that packagers would not have to buy any major new equipment to make the bottle, a factor the project hopes will encourage them to make the switch.
“Food packaging is one of the most visible sources of waste, with over 67 million tons generated in the EU every year. Cutting down this waste would mean reduced energy use and carbon dioxide emissions, as well as less waste treatment costs,” the article said.
Image source: http://www.phbottle.eu/documentos/poster.zip
A fruit juice bottle made from juice wastewater: http://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/news/fruit-juice-bottle-made-juice-wastewater
Squeezing every drop of efficiency from juice processing: http://ec.europa.eu/research/infocentre/article_en.cfm?artid=31676