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Sanitizing the Air

The rising acceptance and use of ozone in the produce industry

But once the decision is made, it’s pretty simple. The machinery arrives, is installed, and all users need are power and water. Mobile units are also available.

“In a very small facility, we may use mobile units,” Hamil comments, which can be moved around the plant as needed. “The manufacturer designs a set point for the amount of ozone you want in the water, and it stays at that level.”

Costs Involved
There are costs to buy the equipment and to install it, as well as what Hamil called “commissioning,” a process of showing employees how to use the new system.

A major positive is longevity. “Machines last 20 years on average without a major overhaul, but it could be 40 years,” she notes, if major upgrades are made.

Complete ozone systems, including monitoring and the system controls included with each unit, range from as little as $10,000 up to $200,000 depending on the size of the operation. Maintenance costs, Hamil says, might range from $300 to $3,000 per year.

“It’s a significant upfront investment,” Recchiuti points out, “but it paid off for us fairly quickly. We never jump into a new technology or process or anything like this without first testing it on a small scale. We had very favorable results so we started using it.”

Realizing ROI
Recchiuti says Basciani Foods has had little retooling as the company chose to use aqueous ozone instead of gaseous, so it was just a matter of “hooking up to a machine, testing the parts-per-million, and getting it properly set.”

Christopher Ranch’s Codiga calls the company’s ozone operation “a very simple system; it’s less harsh on the environment, our employees, and equipment. Overall,” she continues, “we feel it is a safer product.”

Recchiuti describes the system as “low maintenance” and has no regrets. “I look at it as payback on investment. For the applications we were using, it was less than a two-year payback.”

Hamil says this kind of ease has developed in the last two decades. In the past, she says systems were “extraordinarily expensive and complicated, and may have been more temperamental. Today’s systems are robust and easy to use.”

Industry Integration
As for why there isn’t wider acceptance throughout the industry, she blames a ‘fear of the unknown,’ though for some produce handlers it may be a lack of knowledge as well as the initial costs.

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