An Australian company claims to have invented an avocado ‘time-machine’ that blocks the activity of the enzyme responsible for turning them brown. The machine, called Natavo Zero, can reportedly process 4,000 avocados in an hour, and keeps pre-sliced and mashed forms fresh for at least 10 days. If you were worried about the looming avocado crisis, this could change everything. Imagine going to the supermarket and picking up a pack of fresh avocado slices, or some ready-made pulp, and keeping it in the fridge for a week. It sure beats cutting open a whole, horribly overripe avocado, realising breakfast is ruined, and going back to bed. “We make a claim of 10 days shelf life after you’ve opened the bag so you can leave them in the fridge and keep eating them for 10 days, but they will last a lot longer than that,” agricultural engineer Jeff Hastings from Naturo All Natural Technologies told ABC News. But this isnt just about fixing some very serious #firstworldproblems. If you think youve thrown out some shitty avocados in your time, think about how many are being shafted by farmers every day. Think about how many avocados you and everyone else pass over at the supermarket before you find the perfect one, because all those rejects are almost certainly going in the bin at the end of the day. Were talking tens of thousands of tonnes of overripe and imperfect avocados being thrown out every year. The Natavo Zero is designed to give farmers the opportunity to pulp or slice imperfect avocados on site and sell them to your local supermarket. Another benefit is that it does all this without the use of all those additives and preservatives that make pre-made guac not taste like avocado anymore. “Although there is a range of avocado products currently on the market, nearly all of them contain additives such as antioxidants, acids, and preservatives, which not only alter the taste of the fruit, but do very little to stop the browning once the packaging is opened,” Frank Schreiber from Naturo told Business News Australia. So how do you slow down the browning process without preservatives? The science behind the Natavo Zero is actually extremely cool – they basically ‘switch off’ the enzyme responsible for browning (called polyphenol oxidase, or PPO), using pressure and temperature fluctuations generated by steam. Unfortunately, the company is keeping the exact details of the process extremely close to their chest – presumably because theyd like to make a lot of money out of it – so we can’t tell you much more than that at this stage, but previous studies have found evidence of steam blanching being able to block the activity of PPO in sliced mangoes and bananas. As this 2009 study explains, when mango slices were given the steam treatment, there was “complete inactivation” of PPO after just 7 minutes, and a noticeable effect on colouration over 20 days, and in this study, steam-treated banana samples did not exhibit any significant colour change when exposed to steam. The company says Australians can expect their pre-sliced and mashed avocado products to be in stores later this year, and people in the rest of the world? I guess you’ll have to cross your fingers and hope the technology lives up to its promise so it can make it over there too.
Science Alert, 3 August 2016 ;http://www.sciencealert.com.au ;