Cold plasma for horticulture

Author: Dr Sukhvinder Pal (SP) Singh

A decontamination technology to reduce food safety risks in horticultural products

information sheet

What is the need?

Improving food safety can provide a competitive advantage for Australian horticultural industries. Foodborne illnesses caused by microbial contamination in fresh produce and nuts can lead to product recalls, loss of consumer confidence and trade disruption – all of which cause economic losses to industry.

What is cold plasma?

Cold plasma is created by applying an electric current to normal air or a gas. This produces reactive gaseous species found to have broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity. Cold plasma is effective at temperatures slightly above ambient, which means produce can be treated without being heated.

What are the benefits?

  • Improved food safety and reduced postharvest losses due to decay
  • Treatment time of a few seconds to minutes
  • Energy efficient treatment with zero chemical residue

Project objectives

  • To develop a decontamination technology based on cold plasma that can kill or inactivate foodborne pathogens and rot-causing microbes on fresh produce
  • Collaboration with technology partner(s) and horticultural industries to validate, scale-up and commercialise this technology

Project outcomes

  • A new tool to reduce food safety risks to consumers and industry
  • More competitive Australian horticultural industries in both domestic and export markets

Target beneficiaries

Horticultural growers, processors and packers of commodities such as:

  • Fruit: apple, blueberry, citrus, strawberry
  • Nuts: macadamia and almonds
  • Vegetables: spinach and lettuce
  • Fresh-cut fruit and vegetables