(March 7) SmartFresh is best known as the post-harvest treatment used on more than half of the U.S. apple storage crop, but AgroFresh Inc. — the Spring House, Pa.-based company that markets the ethylene-blocking gas — plans a big push into the tomato category.

New business development manager Theresa Kelso said that depending on the variety and the stage of ripening when picked, SmartFresh can extend the shelf life of tomatoes one to two weeks, maintaining firmness and delaying decay.

“Some people might use it just to increase shelf life,” she said, “but we’re all about quality.”

Global communications manager Robin Sprague said AgroFresh is making SmartFresh for tomatoes available in North America after two years of trials in the U.S. and Mexico. The product also was recently accepted for registration in Canada. Commercial sales are expected to start there in May, Kelso said.

“It’s a good-size market,” Kelso said. “There are a lot of greenhouse tomatoes grown in Canada.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. imported 135,140 metric tons of Canadian tomatoes worth more than $284 million last year. Those figures are second only to Mexico’s 844,343 metric tons worth more than $918 million.

Until now, SmartFresh-treated tomatoes could be shipped into Canada, but the treatment could not be applied there. Kristen Callow, general manager of the Leamington-based Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association, said the change might allow Canadian growers to ship tomatoes outside North America.

“We do a good job already picking on color depending on distance,” she said. “I think that the benefit will be great quality on the shelf longer when it is needed.”

Acceptance in Canada also means multinational shippers can use the same process across their North American operations.

“That’s going to be a big advantage,” Kelso said.