- How Ripelocker was born?
RipeLocker was established in 2015 by the father and son team, George, and Kyle Lobisser.
And what were the concerns that led to determining the development of a technology like this?
George previously owned Pace International LLC, a major supplier of coatings, fungicides, and antioxidants to the pome, citrus, and stone fruit industries in North, South, and Central America. A dream of George’s was to someday provide postharvest solutions for perishables that were not coated, or line processed with water (e.g., berries, asparagus, flowers).
In addition, he saw that there is a movement to steer away from using synthetic postharvest chemicals, especially in Europe, a leader in using fewer synthetic chemicals than the USA.
Lastly, from his many years running Pace International, he witnessed firsthand how senescence starts the minute an apple leaves the controlled atmosphere (CA). He thought wouldn’t it make sense to move the CA room as close to the point of consumption as possible? He approached his son Kyle, a mechanical engineer working at Apple, to design/build an inexpensive pallet-sized vacuum chamber – a game-changing technology that had never been available before in the postharvest processing marketplace.
RipeLocker emerged in the fresh produce industry as a novel idea based on science and the need by consumers for higher quality, sustainable food. The company’s principles for doing business are as follows:
RipeLocker’s mission is to be the world’s leading provider of state-of-the-art dynamic vacuum technology to growers/packers to extend the postharvest life of perishables. Using our extensive knowledge and expertise in fruit sciences and engineering, we seek to develop the most innovative solution to ensure and maintain the quality, increase the value, and extend the seasonal availability of perishables during storage and transportation to retailers and consumers.
To reduce food loss and waste by helping growers/packers, retailers, and consumers keep perishables fresher longer.
- Environmentally Responsible
- What makes the Ripelocker technology different from other existing technologies on the market?
- There is nothing out there in the market like RipeLocker today. RipeLocker is a unique patented technology that precisely manages the internal atmosphere (pressure, humidity, oxygen, and carbon dioxide) of the air inside the container where the perishables are stored to extend their postharvest life.
- Unlike MAP bags RipeLockers are Dynamic and not static. The atmosphere inside the RipeLocker is constantly monitored and can be changed to keep respiration and Respiratory Quotient (RQ) within bounds to slow down senescence and suppress decay.
- The containers are bin-sized, stackable, and portable, unlike older, large room-sized vacuum chambers that were stationary and immobile.
- Holding perishables under low pressure allows volatiles to escape the fruit faster than low oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure.
- How has it evolved in recent years? From the first evaluations to what exists commercially?
Trials conducted over the years on different commodities have shown the guidelines which are used to implement the right parameters inside the RipeLockers.
There is no path to follow, however. The only way RipeLocker can figure out the correct parameters to manage its internal atmosphere is by running more efficacy trials with the grower/packer on the specific perishable.
Based on customer feedback, changes have been made to the container itself to make it more user-friendly for the grower/packer shipper.
Improvements to some operational cooling measures have been made to get the perishable colder and faster than traditional bins or pallets sitting in a cold room. It’s a fact the quicker you can get a perishable cold, the better.
- Given the logistical and global problems, how do you see the progress of the adoption in the use of Riplelocker by the industry?
- There is no question customers need to change some of their traditional logistics to use the RipeLocker. This is not seen as a problem if RipeLocker delivers economic value over the increase in logistical costs
- RipeLocker benefits from the current disruption at the shipper level. RipeLockers can hold the perishable and retain its quality even if the ocean containers/reefers are held on the ship for weeks passed their intended delivery time
- For the Grower/Packer
- RipeLocker containers can preserve the quality and lengthen the seasonal availability of fresh produce and flowers. This increases the inventory of perishables to meet the demands of the consumers during the off-season.
- RipeLockers also work to suppress decay and prolong the freshness of perishables after harvest to eliminate Food Loss and Waste during the postharvest process.
- For Shippers
- Shipping perishables in RipeLockers suspends ripening and drastically reduces Food Loss and Waste inside the reefers during the now very long transportation process.
- Because they are pallet-sized, portable, and stackable, they easily fit in many shipping configurations within the existing cold chain.
- Cost savings can be achieved by changing from expensive air shipments to ground and ocean.
- For Retailers and Consumers
- Fruit held inside the RipeLocker is of higher eating quality and has a longer shelf-life inside the consumer’s home…where most food waste occurs.
- New house, new challenges; what’s next?
- The new offices on Bainbridge Island include:
- Fruit Sciences Lab to continue to conduct timely QC and shelf-life evaluations on the fruit coming out of the RipeLockers
- Cold rooms to execute R&D trials on various perishables.
- Engineering Lab for engineers to continue to measure, innovate and improve on the design and development of the RipeLocker technology.
- Data Science Lab for data scientists and engineers to analyze and interpret data collected from the RipeLocker to make informed and vital decisions to optimize the internal storage conditions of the RipeLocker.
- RipeLocker has gained much success since its inception. However, some challenges still need to be overcome.
- In instances where the RipeLockers are being used for shipping vs. stationary deployment, there will always be the associated cost of backhaul (cargo carried on a return journey). But, for most perishables, the value in better-eating quality, less decay loss, and season extension result in significantly higher margins that significantly offset the expense of backhauls.
- What’s next for RipeLocker primarily is to continue to prove our product’s effectiveness and benefits to the fresh produce industry through science-based testing:
- RipeLocker continues to conduct efficacy trials on a variety of high-value perishables around the world (see Global Trials Map on the website: https://ripelocker.com/the-proof/map/)
- Expand the use of RipeLockers beyond delaying senescence and suppressing decay for use in quarantine and insect control. Trials are ongoing with government agencies and grower/packer.
- Research ways to decrease the levels of synthetic fungicides used during the postharvest processing of perishables.