When a load of New Zealand avocados arrives in the United States later this month (December), their growers will be
keenly interested in their condition.
The fruit is the first exported in a new, trial packaging designed to keep them in the best state. Technology New
Zealand invested in the packaging project to help the Avocado Industry Council boost export potential for growers.
At stake in the project are exports that growers hope will reach $100 million by 2005.
"It's about $35 million now," says Avocado Industry Council chief executive Jonathan Cutting. "But with the extensive
planting that's been going in recently, we believe it could reach $100 million."
Dr Cutting says kiwifruit packaging has been used until now. "It wasn't important before. Avocados kept well enough on
short trips to Australia. But now we're shipping to the United States, kiwifruit packaging is not suitable."
Kiwifruit holds its condition and quality well for long times, unlike avocados.
Massey University's David Tanner, who worked on the project, says avocados "have a burst of metabolic activity and pump
out heat like crazy".
So the challenge was to design something that delayed ripeness until the right moment.
"The advance is not in the materials but in the design," Dr Tanner says. "It's more about air-flow. Basically we
redesigned a standard wooden pallet so the air flowed up between cartons to get a more even temperature and a more even
quality of fruit.
"It 's not a lot of rocket science, but it's suitable for avocado and it might be suitable for other fruits, too."