Our Storage Division studies, designs and manufactures solutions for the fruit and vegetable storage market. It uses the most advanced controlled atmosphere technology to maintain the quality of foodstuffs and lengthen their post-harvest storage life. In addition, Isolcell designs and builds turnkey storage warehouses, based on polyurethane and sheet metal sandwich thermal insulation panels, insulated doors, gas-tightness, industrial refrigeration and provision of all the equipment needed to monitor the warehouse’s atmosphere. This is the historic Division of Isolcell which can boast plants installed worldwide.
What is a controlled atmosphere (CA)
Each plant product has a metabolism of its own. Therefore fruit is alive and breathes, thus consuming oxygen, not only while growing in the field, but even also it is harvested. Its respiration process involves the breakdown and oxidation of carbohydrates such as sugars and acids, which are stored in the plant’s tissues. The end products of breathing are: heat, carbon dioxide, water vapor and some aromatic compounds. The faster a fruit breathes, the faster it “ages”, thus shortening its “storage life”. For a long time, refrigeration was the only method used to keep fruit and vegetables fresh. It was not until 1821 that Berard, a plant physiology researcher, discovered that fruit stored in a low oxygen environment had a slower metabolism. At the beginning of the 20th century, researchers Kidd and West scientifically defined the concepts of Controlled Atmosphere storage, but CA only became available on the market at the end of the ‘50s, simultaneously in Europe and in the US. Both reducing the storage room’s oxygen level and raising its carbon dioxide level, significantly lower the product’s respiratory activity. Controlled Atmosphere, combined with lower temperatures, acts more in depth in the metabolism of plants, for example by reducing the fruit’s production of ethylene, by blocking the breakdown of chlorophyll (the green color), by delaying the pectin hydrolysis (that affects the firmness of the pulp), and by slowing the breakdown of vitamins and acids. From a commercial point of view, this not only maintains the organoleptic properties of the products but also reduces losses due to pathogens (fungi) and to common plant disorders such as common and senescent scald and cold damage in general. These advantages become even more evident by using the new and more advanced CA techniques, first applied in Italy by Isolcell, and the DCA-CF technology which Isolcell exclusively distributes worldwide. These are the Ultra Low Oxygen (ULO) and DCA - CF techniques (Dynamic Controlled Atmosphere with Chlorophyll Fluorescence). The former preserves products in an environment with a percentage of oxygen around 1%. The choice of the type of atmosphere to be used depends on the product (species, variety) and on the product’s physiological condition at harvest. Compared to traditional CA storage, the advantage of ULO is a further reduction (30%) of the respiratory metabolism. The latest breakthrough storage technology, DCA - CF (Dynamic Controlled Atmosphere with Chlorophyll Fluorescence), further improves the quality of fruit during storage. A quality until now unimaginable for stored products can now be achieved by means of dynamic adaptation of a controlled atmosphere, adjusted on the basis of the physiological condition of the product to store and of its biological activity over time. This method was invented and patented by a Canadian Government Research Institute and further developed at the Laimburg Agricultural and Forestry Research Institute. In 2003, Isolcell started to apply the technology in commercial storage cells and currently holds the exclusive worldwide distributorship.