(Sept. 21) Unable to keep up with demand, the makers of equipment that keeps produce fresh and disease-free have turned to an outside manufacturer to boost production.

AirOcare, Rockville, Md., announced Sept. 1 that it had selected Mid-South Industries Inc., Gadsden, Ala., to build its air purification and sanitation equipment.

AirOcare units use oxygen ions to sanitize the air in cold storage facilities, eliminate odors and kill bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew and other contaminants.

In Mid-South, AirOcare picked a company that manufactures equipment for Xerox, Frigidaire and other top-shelf companies, said Bob McDonald, AirOcare’s president and chief executive officer.

The partnership between the two companies will help AirOcare lower the costs of its products and develop new technologies, McDonald said.

AirOcare equipment has been adopted by other industries, but the company got its feet wet in produce, McDonald said.

“Our initial market focus was in serving the needs of grower-shippers of fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said. “We continue to emphasize this market area while we have been expanding into the full cold chain from growers to carriers to processors to retailers.”

According to the AirOcare Web site, AirOcare treatments of fresh produce have resulted in the following:

  • 15% reduction in weight loss and 41% reduction in rotting in apples.

  • 27% increased shelf life in bananas.

  • 90% reduction in environment contamination in potatoes.

  • 84% reduction in fungus in peaches.

  • Spoilage reduction from 70% to 10% in cauliflower.

  • 30% more juice and 15% more weight in citrus.

  • increased storage from two to six months in a variety of fruit.

What separates AirOcare from other companies, McDonald said, is its use of a nonchemical approach using ambient air to remove up to 99.9% of the bacteria and contaminants from coolers, controlled-atmosphere rooms and other cold-storage settings.

Scrubbing the air with AirOcare air purification equipment extends the shelf life of fresh produce, improves quality and enhances food safety, McDonald said.