Huge potential in clean, green ozone machine
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
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.
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 in which the beetroot-tainted water was completely cleaned by circulating it through an ozone unit, saving tens of thousands of dollars worth of chemical costs, and making for a big win for the environment. Picture supplied.