With 1,500 corporate customers from 50 countries, it's not surprising that
Purfresh Inc., based in Fremont, CA, is participating in the 2011 Fruit
Logistica exhibition in Berlin.
But David Cope, president and chief executive officer of Purfresh, told The
Produce News that the European market isn’t just any market for his firm. He
credited Europeans for having a special interest in distributing safe foods.
Such an interest has taken a foothold worldwide, he added, and is the basis of
Purfresh’s genesis and ongoing success.
Purfresh was founded in 1996 to "providing clean, science-based solutions
that purify, protect and preserve fresh produce," according to corporate
“The company was founded with the observation that the global food industry
is a very large, well-established industry but one that is undergoing a great
deal of change,” said Mr. Cope. “A lot of that is driven by consumer behavior.”
An example of the behavioral change is “increased demand for a truly year-
round supply of all fresh commodities,” he said. Another development is the
expectation by average consumers in developing countries, such as China, to
have increasingly higher standards for shelf life and food safety.
In the past, such demands “were in some ways mitigated by traditional
chemicals, such as fungicides, pesticides and fluorinated compounds.” Today,
consumer demand is for fewer traditional chemicals; organic foods reflect
one of the many examples. Europeans and the Japanese are leading that
demand and want to avoid residues from chemicals such as chlorine, Mr. Cope
Purfresh technology uses ozone, which is the world’s only 100 percent natural
disinfectant, according to Purfresh. It is made from oxygen in the air and is
150 percent stronger than chlorine. Ozone is certified organic and approved
by the Food & Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It
kills surface and airborne microorganisms and leaves no residue.
“Purfresh has a wonderful opportunity to meet the changing consumer
demand,” Mr. Cope noted. “[Historically] there was not great involvement from
the industry to meet that demand, and that is what Purfresh is all about: to
provide solutions from pre-harvest to postharvest. At Fruit Logistica, we will
be promoting a transportation product, Purfresh Transport.”
There is a need for Purfresh Transport because “the average piece of fruit
travels 1,500 miles to a consumer,” said Mr. Cope. “The transportation
segment is by far the longest and has the least visibility and [there can often
be little] control in what happens in that leg of the [distribution] chain. There
can be a tremendous investment in post-harvest and then very little” is done
to monitor or control fresh food transportation operations. “Twenty [percent]
to 30 percent of all fresh food shipped has physical damage” or decay that
occurs in the transportation leg.
“What resonates well in the market is our ability to take Purfresh Transport
into refrigerated shipping containers so there is complete transparency en
The first of three major functions of Purfresh Transport technology is
monitoring in real time the container’s location and levels of oxygen and
carbon dioxide, which are indicators of fruit respiration. Purfresh also
monitors container temperature and relative humidity and sends notices
regarding door breaches and g-forces, which show the container has been
dropped or is vibrating. The power status of the refrigeration unit is also
monitored by Purfresh Transport. All functions are recorded during transit and
are available at the point of delivery.
Purfresh customers can use the Internet or their smartphones to see the
condition of a container throughout the products’ journey. This is important,
Mr. Cope said, because many potential problems can be avoided en route.
“When you look into the industry,” this technology “fundamentally changes
everything. The burden used to be on the grower. The buyer would inspect
the load and it was either good or bad. No one was really truly accountable.”
Purfresh now provides transportation intelligence to lend an “understanding
all the way to the market” of what has happened that will affect quality, shelf
life and food safety.
A second critical component of Purfresh Transport is to enhance the food-
safety component with “active oxygen species that some call ozone.” This
prevents decay by micro-organisms such as mold and yeast and kills micro-
organisms like E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria.
A third feature of Purfresh Transport is controlling fruit ripening by keeping
ethylene levels in a container below 10 parts per billion.
Purfresh Transport has been in the market for two years and is already used
by 17 of the 20 top shipping lines in world, according to Mr. Cope.
The technology has become more important because cargo ships have cut
sailing speeds to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut fuel costs.
Given this, in the face of increasing year-round global demand for fresh food,
there is more food-safety risk because of longer transportation times, Mr.
Cope said. “This is another reason our product is being used.”
Shippers in New Zealand, 45 days from northern Europe, are among those
anxious to use the service, he said.
Purfresh’s list of fresh produce items that benefits from Purfresh Transport
technology appears to match with all of the major commodities that are
shipped. This includes the world’s largest-volume export fruit commodity,
bananas. Mr. Cope said that Purfresh Transport is used by the banana
industry in particular for high-value organic fruit. South American berries
have been heavy users of Purfresh Transport this winter, he said, and citrus
exports are using the Purfresh product to avoid blue and green mold.
“People will compare us to controlled atmosphere or modified atmosphere”
shipping, he noted. “Those technologies are quite old” and do not kill
organisms that create health hazards, he added.