DCA offers benefits beyond the cold storage room

Cool storage technology for both apples and pears has advanced rapidly in Australia since 2014, particularly in Victoria, providing new opportunities for growers.

HarvestWatch™ technology for use in Dynamic Controlled Atmosphere (DCA) storage was developed in Canada in 2001. It has been in use internationally for nearly two decades and was first introduced to Australia in 2014.

The ability to achieve superficial scald control through ultra-low oxygen, non-chemical methods, while also prolonging shelf life, has driven DCA adoption worldwide.  DCA with HarvestWatch, which detects stress by monitoring chlorophyll fluorescence (DCA-CF) to ensure oxygen levels remain above those at which there is a risk of fruit damage, has addressed earlier barriers to take up. There are now well over 100 cold storage rooms using the technology nationally, with many more in a position to transition with the addition of chlorophyll fluorescence sensors.

Benefits of HarvestWatch DCA over Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage include:

  • Reduced chemical use: No post-harvest scald or rot treatments are required prior to cold storage.
  • Reduced storage and handling costs: Removing the need for pre-storage dipping for superficial scald prevention, often at third party facilities, reduces transport and logistics costs.
  • Reduced fruit damage:  Removal of the additional transport and handling involved in dipping, in particular fork lift movement, significantly reduces the potential for fruit damage.
  • Increase packable yield through having no dip burn and a decreased spread of rots through no water dilution (which can actually increase the issue in storage).

In addition to the quality and cost benefits, the widespread adoption of HarvestWatch DCA offers advantages to growers beyond the cold storage room.

The removal of the need for pre-storage dipping means growers that don’t have bins, cool storage and dipping facilities, or access to these functions, now have significantly more choice when considering how, and by whom, their production should be packed.

There are service offerings available within industry that, in the absence of the dipping requirement, now provide for all logistics aspects, including bins and transport.

Finally, industry has the independent storage and marketing options long spoken off by producers as lacking in our industry

HarvestWatch DCA has its critics and challenges. Results through 2014 to 2018 have however been very acceptable, with very large volumes of fruit – both apples and pears – being managed in this format and very large equipment orders nationally taking place to further advance this technology.

APAL’s Post-harvest Seminar on 16 January, 2019, at the Park Royal Melbourne Airport, will include a presentation by Tito Spaldi, Isolcell Export Manager on DCA-CF technology and I urge all interested growers, however large or small, to take advantage of this opportunity to be informed and involved.


Further reading

Development of Dynamic Controlled Atmosphere with HarvestWatch and its applications worldwide in the last 15 years (Dr Robert Prange, presentation, 2016 APAL Post-Harvest Seminar)

Dynamic Controlled Atmosphere (Dr Gordon Brown & Dr Robert Prange, AFG April 2014)




About the Author:

Chris Fairless
Chris Fairless is an independent CA – DCA cool storage operator, at both Kyabram, and Merrigum, Cold Storage, in the Goulburn Valley, and an APAL Director.