Huge po­ten­tial in clean, green ozone ma­chine

The Orchardist - - News - By Kris­tine Walsh

New tech­nol­ogy that of­fers chem­i­cal-free con­trol of pests and dis­eases, a way to slow ripen­ing in stor­age and even send birds pack­ing has the hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­try all a-twit­ter.

Over the last 11 years Hast­ings com­pany Hy­dra­torq has made its name by deal­ing in in­dus­trial ma­chin­ery of mas­sive pro­por­tions, but lately it's been get­ting at­ten­tion for a new piece of tech­nol­ogy not much big­ger than a banana box.

A year ago Hy­dra­torq took over the New Zealand and Aus­tralian dis­tri­bu­tion rights for the BioFume Ozone sys­tem that Tau­ranga in­no­va­tor Roger Cherry had been de­vel­op­ing for nearly a decade.

And sales man­ager Greig Den­ham says in­dus­try play­ers have been quick to take no­tice of a prod­uct which, as is of­ten the case, was de­vel­oped in re­sponse to a cri­sis.

“Around the time Psa was emerg­ing in ki­wifruit or­chards, Roger worked out a way to get ozone onto vines via over­head sprin­kler sys­tems and that had a big ef­fect,” Den­ham says.

“The use of ozone to con­trol pests and dis­ease is not new. It’s long been known that, when com­bined with water, it is up to 3000 times faster than chlo­rine at killing fun­gus, mould and bac­te­ria. What is new is the patented de­liv­ery sys­tem Roger has de­vel­oped. It is rev­o­lu­tion­ary.”

Ozone is cre­ated by putting an elec­tri­cal charge through oxy­gen and Cherry's chal­lenge was to find a way of har­ness­ing the no­to­ri­ously un­sta­ble ozone so it could be de­liv­ered within the 20-minute win­dow be­fore it loses its power.

He met that chal­lenge by de­vel­op­ing his patented por­ta­ble sys­tem that gen­er­ates a “con­trolled light­ning storm in a box”, cre­at­ing ozone gas that is then in­jected into water in a spray unit and ap­plied for the de­sired pur­pose.

“Un­til now that mix­ing has been done in­side the water tank and that re­quires big, ex­pen­sive equip­ment,” Den­ham says. “So what Roger has done is de­velop a de­liv­ery sys­tem more cost­ef­fec­tive than any­one else has man­aged to come up with.

“Af­ter I first saw the BioFume unit in ac­tion on that Psaaf­fected ki­wifruit or­chard I re­alised it had huge po­ten­tial in

the in­dus­try. Ba­si­cally, users can achieve amaz­ing out­comes us­ing noth­ing more than their ex­ist­ing water sys­tems and that has got to be the way of the fu­ture.”

Be­cause the ozone is mixed with water it is safe for the user, but it wipes out any­thing else in it's path, from bugs and mildew to bac­te­rial in­fec­tions.

And it can also be used in its gaseous form for things like pro­tect­ing large spa­ces (like su­per­mar­kets and cool­stores) from birds which, be­cause of their del­i­cate res­pi­ra­tory sys­tems, soon take flight.

As the coun­try's sole BioFume dis­trib­u­tor, Hy­dra­torq has in re­cent months picked up two im­por­tant ac­co­lades – Mys­tery Creek's Lo­cus Re­search In­no­va­tion Award and the in­no­va­tion award at the Na­tional Hor­ti­cul­tural Fiel­d­ays, in Hawke's Bay.

“The more we talk to peo­ple about it, the more we re­alise just how wide the range of ap­pli­ca­tions is,” says Greig Den­ham.

His re­search shows that tar­geted spray­ing of ozone could re­place many of the in­sec­ti­cides and other chem­i­cals used in the grow­ing and pro­cess­ing in­dus­tries, of­fer­ing big sav­ings for op­er­a­tors.

“We're learn­ing more all the time. For ex­am­ple, we've re­cently found that when us­ing ozone on grass, the in­creased oxy­gen to the roots and per­co­la­tion of the soil can re­duce both water and fer­tiliser re­quire­ments.”

Some ma­jor New Zealand or­gan­i­sa­tions are cur­rently con­duct­ing their own tri­als and Den­ham says there is more to come.

“Roger has just cracked a new way of get­ting the ozone onto pro­duce get­ting mas­sive cov­er­age us­ing far less water, with a higher con­cen­tra­tion of ozone that re­ally an­ni­hi­lates bugs. That has huge po­ten­tial in terms of fu­mi­ga­tion re­quire­ments.”

Mean­while, as Hy­dra­torq's reg­u­lar crew takes care of its hy­draulic sys­tems busi­ness in Hast­ings, Greig Den­ham is

stay­ing put in the Bay of Plenty where many of the BioFume tri­als are tak­ing place.

But he is of­ten on the road – for ex­am­ple, he re­cently vis­ited a Gis­borne pack­house where the op­er­a­tors were keen to find a way of mak­ing sure fruit is pest and dis­ease free be­fore it is har­vested, keep­ing nas­ties out of the pro­duc­tion chain.

“While I was there we re­cently used a BioFume unit to spray lemons with ozone-charged water and you could ac­tu­ally see the sooty mould peel­ing off the lemons,” he says

“That's fan­tas­tic, and we think there is a real pos­si­bil­ity that dis­eases like sooty mould could be­come a thing of the past.”

“Ozone ex­plodes the cell walls of mol­e­cules, so or­gan­isms can’t build up re­sis­tance to it, which is a huge ad­van­tage over chem­i­cal sprays. There’s now ki­wifruit or­chards here in New Zealand that haven’t done any sprays . . . ex­cept with ozonated water (and) they will never have to switch to a new spray as noth­ing can build up a re­sis­tance to ozone.”

– Roger Cherry

IN THE PINK: Faced with need­ing a way of clean­ing up beet­root juice be­fore it turned the stormwa­ter sys­tem pink, a ma­jor pro­ces­sor wanted a so­lu­tion bet­ter than throw­ing heaps of chlo­rine at it. In re­sponse, BioFume agent Greig Den­ham con­ducted a trial...

AND THE WIN­NER IS: Just a year af­ter for­mal­is­ing their agree­ment, Biofume Ozone de­vel­oper Roger Cherry (right) and Hy­dra­torq dis­trib­u­tor Greig Den­ham al­ready have a swag of awards tes­ti­fy­ing to its po­ten­tial across in­dus­tries.

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