Western Fumigation Update - New Technology Pilot Test
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Western Fumigation Update – New Technology Pilot Test

Over the past many years, there has been much discussion about the future of fumigation and the regulatory environment, and how potential changes in requirements might affect the imported and exported commodity industries that depend on quarantine and pre-shipment treatments to enter or leave the US.

Western has been carefully monitoring and studying the field of recapture technology, whereby aerated fumigant may be collected and destroyed without being released into the atmosphere. However, as we evaluated the concept and design of systems available for this process in conjunction with consultants and experts in the field, we soon determined that the designs or systems available did not meet the logistical and economic criteria that were required for our customers’ perishable products.

Miriam Borja-Fisher and Kurt Reichert of Western Fumigation decided to enlist the help of leading researchers, and at the 2015 MBAO* (Methyl Bromide Alternatives & Emissions Reduction Outreach Conference) in Orlando, Florida, they brought their dilemma to an elite group of scientists. This group of scientists had already been studying the concept of recapture technology through a US government-funded grant program on a laboratory scale, so Western was confident that this team of researchers possessed the expertise and experience to tackle our unique scenario.

Along with members of Holt Logistics, Western has been working at lightning speed with the research and development team of Dr. Spencer Walse to design technology that would meet our criteria, as outlined above. One of the main problems with currently available technology is that it is dependent on voluminous amounts of activated carbon. Each pound of fumigant used would require a ten-to-fifteen-fold quantity of carbon. Obviously, for large capacity fumigation, this scenario would not be feasible.

With clear parameters in mind, Dr. Walse and his team of research scientists set out to design a system to fulfill our customers’ needs.

“Scientists at the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center assembled a team of university, industry, and regulatory cooperators to develop and implement cost-effective and efficient technologies for eliminating atmospheric inputs that result from postharvest fumigations. We are eagerly awaiting the deployment and testing of scrubbing technologies at the Holt Terminal in Camden, New Jersey, which serves as very worthy technological proving ground due to logistical challenges and the sheer volume of goods that are imported nightly. Team members are highly encouraged by findings thus far, and share confidence that such environmentally conscious technologies will enable the critical international use of methyl bromide in scenarios where no alternatives are yet available,” said Dr. Spencer Walse.

“In light of the increasing pressure from regulators for the control of methyl bromide emissions, we are excited to be a critical part of finding a truly workable solution. Currently discussed systems are just too complex and expensive to be used at this scale and it has been quite an effort to make the regulators understand this. If the industry is going to thrive in the coming years, it will take a reasonably thought out, affordable technology to destroy emissions resulting from the commodity treatments which we do. We believe that Dr. Walse and his team have cracked the code to make this possible,” added Western’s Reichert.

Western is excited to announce that we will be conducting a pilot test of this newly designed system during the upcoming season. As long-term, trusted partners of the imported fruit industry since 1979, Western, more than anyone, understands the sensitivity and care required to make this a successful commercial-sized test. We will be running a stack-sized study during the upcoming season that will not interfere with the flow of cargo through the port.

“We have worked arduously with this cutting edge team of researchers, Holt Logistics, and regulatory bodies, to design and implement a system that will continue to ensure that our customers’ products may access the US market without interruption or delay,” said Western’s Borja-Fisher.

Please feel free to contact Miriam Borja-Fisher at mborja@westernpest.com with any questions.

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