Fun of the pear: Aussie invention will ‘transform avocado industry’

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Naturo founders Jeff Hastings and Frank Schreiber
Naturo founders Jeff Hastings and Frank Schreiber
An Australian company claims to have developed technology that will “revolutionise” the global avocado market by preventing the pears from browning.

Developed by Queensland-based Naturo All Natural Technologies, its inventors claim the machine can address the fruit’s short lifespan and stop it from turning an unsightly brown colour for a minimum of 10 days after it is cut.

Naturo says its Natavo Zero process preserves the nutritional properties and taste of the avocado naturally by switching off the enzyme responsible for browning by using pressure fluctuations generated by steam.

It also claims to eliminate potential pathogens—a bonus for an industry which relies on HPP technology, an expensive process which can only be applied to avocado pulp, not cut avocados, and does not solve the issue of browning. 

Browning

Naturo says its technology is capable of processing any cut of avocado or pulp at the rate of about half a tonne of fruit per hour using an “Avocado Time Machine​”, which is designed and manufactured to each customer’s specific requirements.

Having spent four years developing the patented technology, Naturo’s directors, Frank Schreiber and Jeff Hastings, said the technology now has the potential to become a new industry standard and would open up new markets for fresh and frozen avocado products. 

Although there is a range of avocado products currently on the market, nearly all of them contain additives such as antioxidants, acids and preservatives which not only alter the taste of the fruit but also do very little to stop the browning once the packaging is opened​,” said Schreiber  

Hastings, an agricultural engineer, said that avocados sold at groceries were often disappointing: “The relatively high cost of avocados, combined with the fruit’s short shelf life makes it a challenge to incorporate the fruit into a daily diet, especially in countries which have no access to fresh avocados. Our technology changes all that​.”

The avocado is unique in that it does not ripen on the tree but begins this process soon after it is picked. Cutting the fruit then triggers a complex system of enzymes including polyphenol oxidase (PPO), which reacts with other elements to cause browning. 

After a significant amount of testing, Hastings found that pressure fluctuations generated by steam could stop PPO from reacting and effectively switch it off. It then took another year to prove the science and fully develop the technology to make it work on a commercial scale. 

Some 5m tonnes of avocados are produced globally each year. Though 70% of production comes from the Americas, Australia ranks as one of the leading smaller producers alongside Indonesia and New Zealand.

Demand from existing markets such as Europe and Japan has been increasing rapidly. Newer markets include China, Malaysia and South Korea.

We see Natavo Zero technology as a benchmark for innovation and quality in the avocado industry and expect that the consumer’s appetite for… avocado products will be realised by the local industry​,” Schreiber said. 

One Australian company has already bought the technology and is expected to begin production later this year.

This is a rare win-win-win situation for everybody involved, it’s a win for avocado farmers, a win for the food industry and ultimately a win for consumers​,” added Schreiber.

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