(Jan. 29) A Canadian company, Seair Diffusion Systems Inc., Edmonton, Alberta, is moving to give shippers yet another tool to fight the potential for bacteria-tainted produce.

In cooperation with Paso Robles, Calif.-based Ozone Science Design, Seair is testing ozone injection technology — primarily used in wash water — for use in irrigation water.

“We have a piece of technology that uses ozone to eradicate any bacterial contaminants,” said Mike Zelen, chief financial officer for Seair. “We’re able to get very high concentrations of ozone into water very efficiently.”

The process could be used with pump water or ditch water, said Dave Sands, owner of Ozone Science Design, which he founded three years ago. This is its first attempt to eradicate bacteria using irrigation water.

Sands is testing the Seair equipment at a grower’s Salinas Valley spinach field, he said. He declined to reveal the grower’s name, but said the testing began in October. Sands said he is making frequent modifications to determine the best results on irrigation water.

“So far, it looks as if we’ll get real good results,” he said.

But he cautions that ozone injected into irrigation water may not guard against bacterial contamination.

“It’s actually one more step in preventing bacteria,” Sands said. “I would recommend ozone-treated water be used also in packinghouse operations.”

The Seair equipment is not designed specifically to remove bacteria from vegetables, Zelen said. The goal is to have the treatment closer to the source of the bacteria, he said.

“What we’re trying to do is to give growers the option of addressing issues before they can get to the vegetable,” Zelen said. “It’s attacking things at the source. The real issue, I think, will ultimately be what sort of volume we have to process and what size of units.”

The unit being tested in California is mounted on a trailer to make it easy to move. When mounted permanently, the unit’s footprint would be about twice the size of that of a pallet, Sands said.

The financial advantage to ozone injection, he said, is that once the grower buys the unit, maintenance and operational costs are minimal, offsetting chemical inputs to treat irrigation water.

The ozone injection unit uses electricity and most of the power is for the pump motor, Sands said.

“We know that with the concentrations of ozone that we can apply that by the time it’s finished, whatever was there will be gone,” Zelen said.

Seair Diffusion Systems began when it developed portable sewage treatment technology for the often frozen oil fields in Alaska and Canada, Zelen said. The company has evolved into developing treatment equipment for municipal water systems, pulp and paper mills and agriculture, he said. Though Seair has a few offshore customers, most sales are concentrated in Canada and the U.S., Zelen said. The company’s Web site is www.seair.ca.

If the Seair irrigation system is as promising as initial tests indicate, Ozone Science Design will be a distributor for the equipment, Sands said. The California company concentrates on applications engineering for ozone in food safety, he said.

Sands launched the company after working for Del Ozone Inc., San Luis Obispo, Calif., for more than 10 years. Since it opened its doors, Ozone Science Design has designed and installed a number of ozone injection systems for cold storage facilities in California, Sands said. It also developed and installed a produce wash system for a Nogales, Ariz., packinghouse that handles produce coming from Mexico, he said.

The company’s Web site is www.ozone-design.com.

Canada-California link may reduce contamination
Seair Diffusion Systems’ wastewater treatment unit is one of a fleet of 100 containerized Seair ozone injection systems the Edmonton, Alberta-based company ships to customers, says Chris Kinasewich, vice president of Seair.