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Title:
CONTROLLED ATMOSPHERE STORAGE CASE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/028432
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An apparatus and a method are provided for a controlled atmosphere display case for prolonged storage of plant-based contents within the case. The controlled atmosphere display case includes a rigid housing having an interior cavity. An inert gas supply provides an inert gas to the interior cavity. The inert gas may be nitrogen, or a combination of inert gases that includes nitrogen. An inlet valve conveys the inert gas into the interior cavity. A vacuum pump and the inert gas supply cooperate to create a nitrogen flush that replaces oxygen-rich air within the interior cavity with nitrogen gas. A pressure gauge actuator regulates the concentration of nitrogen gas within the interior cavity. A refrigeration unit controls temperature and moisture within the interior cavity. The nitrogen flush advantageously extends the shelf life of plant-based produce that may be stored within the interior cavity.

Inventors:
CHI, Nelson (23052-H Alicia Parkway, #608Mission Viejo, CA, 92692, US)
Application Number:
US2018/045273
Publication Date:
February 07, 2019
Filing Date:
August 03, 2018
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
O FREE ALL N, LLC (23052-H Alicia Parkway, #608Mission Viejo, CA, 92692, US)
International Classes:
A47F3/04; B65D81/20; B65D83/44; B65D88/74; F16K31/48; F25D27/00
Foreign References:
US20100079044A12010-04-01
US5872721A1999-02-16
JPH0928520A1997-02-04
US5437837A1995-08-01
US4961322A1990-10-09
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SAYED, Hani, Z. (Rutan & Tucker LLP, 611 Anton Boulevard Suite 140, Costa Mesa CA, 92626, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

A controlled-atmosphere display-case system for prolonged storage of contents, comprising:

a display case including a rigid housing having an interior cavity;

an inlet valve coupled to the case configured to convey an inert gas to the interior cavity of the display case;

a vacuum valve coupled to the case configured to convey a mixed gas from the interior cavity of the display case; and

a vacuum pump in fluid communication with the interior cavity of the display case by way of the vacuum valve, the vacuum pump configured to evacuate the mixed gas from the interior cavity of the display case.

The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 1, further comprising:

an inert gas supply in fluid communication with the interior cavity by way of the inlet valve, the inert gas supply including a tank or generator of the inert gas.

The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 1, further comprising:

a pressure gauge actuator coupled to the display case configured to regulate a concentration of the inert gas within the interior cavity of the display case by way of a pressure of the inert gas or mixed gas.

The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 1, further comprising:

a lighting system including one or more lights fixed to a surface of the interior cavity of the display case configured to illuminate contents within the display case.

The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 1, further comprising:

a refrigeration unit coupled to the display case configured to control temperature within the interior cavity of the display case.

6. The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 5, wherein the refrigeration unit includes a thermostat configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired temperature range for the interior cavity of the display case.

7. The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 1, further comprising:

a moisture control system configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired humidity range for the interior cavity of the display case.

8. The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 1, further comprising:

an electrical power supply coupled to one or more electrically powered components coupled to the display case, the one or more electrically powered components selected from the vacuum pump, a pressure gauge actuator coupled to the display case configured to regulate a concentration of the inert gas within the interior cavity, a lighting system including one or more lights fixed to a surface of the interior cavity of the display case configured to illuminate contents within the display case, a refrigeration unit coupled to the display case configured to control temperature within the interior cavity of the display case, and a moisture control system configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired humidity range for the interior cavity of the display case.

9. The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 1, wherein the display case is configured for daisy-chaining with one or more similar display cases of the controlled- atmosphere display-case system.

10. A controlled-atmosphere display-case system for prolonged storage of contents, comprising:

a display case including a rigid housing having an interior cavity;

an inlet valve coupled to the case configured to convey an inert gas to the interior cavity of the display case;

a vacuum valve coupled to the case configured to convey a mixed gas from the interior cavity of the display case; a vacuum pump in fluid communication with the interior cavity of the display case by way of the vacuum valve, the vacuum pump configured to evacuate the mixed gas from the interior cavity of the display case;

a pressure gauge actuator coupled to the display case configured to regulate a concentration of the inert gas within the interior cavity of the display case by way of a pressure of the inert gas or mixed gas; and

a moisture control system configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired humidity range for the interior cavity of the display case.

11. The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 10, wherein the vacuum valve and the inlet valve are on opposite sides of the display case enabling the vacuum pump to evacuate the mixed gas including oxygen from the interior cavity of the display case as the inert gas is conveyed into the interior cavity of the display case by way of the inlet valve.

12. The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 11, further comprising:

an inert gas supply in fluid communication with the interior cavity by way of the inlet valve, the inert gas supply including a tank or generator of the inert gas.

13. The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 12, wherein the vacuum pump and the inert gas supply are configured to cooperate to flush the mixed gas including oxygen from the interior cavity of the display case with the inert gas, thereby extending a shelf life of any contents within the interior cavity of the display case.

14. The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 10, wherein the display case includes a front upper portion and side upper portions of glass to facilitate direct observation of any contents stored within the interior cavity of the display case while also substantially preventing transmission of ultraviolet radiation.

15. The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 14, wherein the display case includes a front lower portion, side lower portions, a top portion, a bottom portion, and a back wall of stainless steel.

16. The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 10, further comprising: a lighting system including one or more lights fixed to a surface of the interior cavity of the display case configured to illuminate contents within the display case.

17. The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 10, further comprising:

a refrigeration unit coupled to the display case configured to control temperature within the interior cavity of the display case, wherein the refrigeration unit includes a thermostat configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired temperature range for the interior cavity of the display case.

18. A controlled-atmosphere display-case system for prolonged storage of contents, comprising:

a display case including a rigid housing having an interior cavity;

an inlet valve coupled to the case configured to convey an inert gas to the interior cavity of the display case;

a vacuum valve coupled to the case configured to convey a mixed gas from the interior cavity of the display case;

a vacuum pump in fluid communication with the interior cavity of the display case by way of the vacuum valve, the vacuum pump configured to evacuate the mixed gas from the interior cavity of the display case;

a pressure gauge actuator coupled to the display case configured to regulate a concentration of the inert gas within the interior cavity of the display case by way of a pressure of the inert gas or mixed gas;

a refrigeration unit coupled to the display case configured to control temperature within the interior cavity of the display case;

a moisture control system configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired humidity range for the interior cavity of the display case; and a lighting system including one or more lights fixed to a surface of the interior cavity of the display case configured to illuminate contents within the display case.

19. The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 18, wherein the display case includes a front upper portion and side upper portions of glass to facilitate direct observation of any contents stored within the interior cavity of the display case while also substantially preventing transmission of ultraviolet radiation, wherein the display case includes a front lower portion, side lower portions, a top portion, a bottom portion, and a back wall of stainless steel, and wherein the vacuum valve and the inlet valve are on opposite sides of the display case enabling the vacuum pump to evacuate the mixed gas including oxygen from the interior cavity of the display case as the inert gas is conveyed into the interior cavity of the display case by way of the inlet valve.

The controlled-atmosphere display-case system of claim 19, further comprising:

an inert gas supply in fluid communication with the interior cavity by way of the inlet valve, the inert gas supply including a tank or generator of the inert gas.

Description:
CONTROLLED ATMOSPHERE STORAGE CASE

PRIORITY

[0001] This application claims the benefit of priority to U.S. Patent Application No. 16/053,653 filed on August 2, 2018 and U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/541,541, filed August 4, 2017, titled "Controlled Atmosphere Storage Case," which is hereby incorporated by reference into this application in its entirety.

FIELD

[0002] The field of the present disclosure generally relates to controlled atmosphere storage. More particularly, the field of the invention relates to an apparatus and a method for a controlled atmosphere storage case that is suitable for prolonged storage of produce contents.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Perishable items, such as post-harvest fruits and vegetables, are often stored in gastight storage facilities. The atmosphere in even a gastight storage space will vary over time as a result of various factors. One of the more important factors affecting atmosphere is fruit respiration. Fruit respiration can have a significant effect on oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in a storage room. Fruit respiration is a natural ripening process that occurs in fruits and vegetables after harvest. Respiration is an uptake of oxygen and a discharge of carbon dioxide just like the human body does during normal breathing. The post-harvest life of fruits and vegetable life can be prolonged for an extended marketing period when placed in refrigerated, modified atmosphere storage containers.

[0004] For a long time, freshly-cut vegetables and fruits have been packed into a modified atmosphere packaging ("MAP"), as has become a standard on the market. With MAP packaging, products are packed into an air-tight or breathable foil or corresponding airtight or breathable package, after which the space including the product is filled with a gas mixture, and the foil or package is sealed airtight. The gas mixture used in MAP packaging includes nitrogen and carbon dioxide in desired proportions, whereby the aim is to decrease the amount of oxygen as much as possible. [0005] A problem with MAP packaging of vegetables and fruits, however, has been that the packaged product continues ripening inside the package. In other words, the product has not been placed into a "sleeping condition" so that the vital functions of the vegetable or fruit significantly decrease. In a sleeping condition, the product would not respire and usually would not produce ethylene as much as it would after being freshly cut. Further, another problem with MAP packaging is that packaged products may go bad very quickly after coming into contact with the atmosphere before being packaged.

[0006] One alternative to MAP packaging is to package fresh products into various grades of vacuums. Vacuum packing tends to be problematic, however, due to damage caused by the vacuum to the cellular texture of the product. In such cases, very light vacuums must be used for fragile products, whereby the benefits gained from the vacuum package decrease or may totally vanish.

[0007] Standard vacuum packaging removes the oxygen from a container. Standard vacuum packaging works well for products like jerky or coffee, because it protects them and extends their shelf life. In the case of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other plant-based products, flushing oxygen out of the container and replacing it with nitrogen (i.e., "nitrogen flushing") is superior to standard vacuum packaging.

[0008] Provided herein is a controlled atmosphere display case for prolonged storage of at least plant-based contents within the case that addresses the foregoing.

SUMMARY

[0009] Provided herein is a controlled atmosphere display case for prolonged storage of contents within the case including, in some embodiments, a rigid housing having an interior cavity; an inert gas supply in fluid communication with the interior cavity; an inlet valve between the case and the inert gas supply; and a vacuum pump coupled to the case and in fluid communication with the interior cavity by way of a vacuum valve.

[0010] In some embodiments, the inert gas supply is a suitable supply of nitrogen gas, such as a nitrogen tank or a nitrogen generator.

[0011] In some embodiments, the inlet valve is configured to convey nitrogen gas to the interior cavity of the case.

[0012] In some embodiments, the inert gas supply is a supply of one or more inert gases other than nitrogen that may be used either in lieu of, or in combination with, nitrogen gas.

[0013] In some embodiments, the vacuum pump and the inlet valve are on opposite sides of the case, such that the vacuum pump evacuates normal, oxygen-rich air from the interior cavity as nitrogen gas is conveyed to the cavity by way of the inlet valve.

[0014] In some embodiments, the inert gas supply and the vacuum pump are configured to cooperate so as to create a nitrogen flush that effectively replaces the normal, oxygen-rich air within the interior cavity with nitrogen gas, the nitrogen flush advantageously extending the shelf life of the contents within the interior cavity.

[0015] In some embodiments, the inlet valve and the vacuum valve are configured as modular valves so as to facilitate coupling together two or more cases.

[0016] In some embodiments, a number of the cases may be coupled together to enable displaying the contents within the cases in a store or product dispensary environment.

[0017] In some embodiments, the number of cases may be coupled to one nitrogen supply and to one vacuum pump, or each of the number of cases may be individually evacuated and supplied with nitrogen gas. [0018] In some embodiments, the display case further includes a pressure gauge actuator coupled to the case and configured to regulate a concentration of nitrogen gas within the interior cavity.

[0019] In some embodiments, the display case further includes a refrigeration unit configured to control temperature and moisture within the interior cavity.

[0020] In some embodiments, the pressure gauge actuator includes a thermostat and a moisture meter configured to enable an operator or technician to respectively specify a desired temperature range and moisture content range within the interior cavity.

[0021] In some embodiments, the pressure gauge actuator is in electrical communication with the refrigeration unit, such that the pressure gauge actuator may activate the refrigeration unit when the thermostat detects a temperature outside of the desired temperature range.

[0022] In some embodiments, the refrigeration unit includes a moisture control system whereby humidity within the interior cavity may be controlled based on the moisture content range specified by the operator of technician.

[0023] In some embodiments, the case includes a front upper portion and side upper portions that are made of glass to facilitate direct observation of the contents stored within the interior cavity.

[0024] In some embodiments, the glass is configured to substantially prevent transmission of ultraviolet ("UV") radiation.

[0025] In some embodiments, the glass is configured to block entry of up to 99% of UV radiation into the interior cavity.

[0026] In some embodiments, the case includes a front lower portion and side lower portions that are made of rigid, structural materials, such as any of various suitable metals.

[0027] In some embodiments, the front lower portion and the side lower portions are stainless steel.

[0028] In some embodiments, the case includes a top portion, a bottom portion, and a back wall of stainless steel, or other suitable rigid materials. [0029] In some embodiments, the back wall includes a hinged door to facilitate accessing the contents within the interior cavity.

[0030] In some embodiments, the hinged door is coupled with a seal that is configured to prevent entry of outside, oxygen-rich air into the interior cavity.

[0031] In some embodiments, an electrical power supply is coupled with at least the inlet valve, the vacuum pump, and a refrigeration unit that is coupled with the case.

[0032] In some embodiments, the electrical power supply includes electrical circuitry and other electrical components that are configured to convey suitably configured electrical power to each of at least the inlet valve, the vacuum pump, and the refrigeration unit.

[0033] In some embodiments, the case includes a front door coupled to the case by way of hinges, the front door of glass so as to facilitate direct observation of the contents stored within the interior cavity.

[0034] In some embodiments, the glass is configured to substantially prevent transmission of ultraviolet ("UV") radiation.

[0035] In some embodiments, the glass is configured to block entry of up to 99% of UV radiation into the interior cavity.

[0036] In some embodiments, a handle is disposed on an outside of the front door and configured to enable opening and closing of the front door by an operator of technician.

[0037] In some embodiments, a seal is disposed between the front door and the case so as to prevent entry of outside, oxygen-rich air into the interior cavity.

[0038] Provided herein is a controlled-atmosphere display-case system for prolonged storage of contents including, in some embodiments, a display case including a rigid housing having an interior cavity; an inlet valve coupled to the case configured to convey an inert gas to the interior cavity of the display case; a vacuum valve coupled to the case configured to convey a mixed gas from the interior cavity of the display case; and a vacuum pump in fluid communication with the interior cavity of the display case by way of the vacuum valve. The vacuum pump is configured to evacuate the mixed gas from the interior cavity of the display case.

[0039] In some embodiments, the controlled-atmosphere display-case system further includes an inert gas supply in fluid communication with the interior cavity by way of the inlet valve. The inert gas supply includes a tank or generator of the inert gas.

[0040] In some embodiments, the controlled-atmosphere display-case system further includes a pressure gauge actuator coupled to the display case configured to regulate a concentration of the inert gas within the interior cavity of the display case by way of a pressure of the inert gas or mixed gas.

[0041] In some embodiments, the controlled-atmosphere display-case system further includes a lighting system including one or more lights fixed to a surface of the interior cavity of the display case configured to illuminate contents within the display case.

[0042] In some embodiments, the controlled-atmosphere display-case system further includes a refrigeration unit coupled to the display case configured to control temperature within the interior cavity of the display case.

[0043] In some embodiments, the refrigeration unit includes a thermostat configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired temperature range for the interior cavity of the display case.

[0044] In some embodiments, the controlled-atmosphere display-case system further includes a moisture control system configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired humidity range for the interior cavity of the display case.

[0045] In some embodiments, the controlled-atmosphere display-case system further includes an electrical power supply coupled to one or more electrically powered components coupled to the display case, the one or more electrically powered components selected from the vacuum pump, a pressure gauge actuator coupled to the display case configured to regulate a concentration of the inert gas within the interior cavity, a lighting system including one or more lights fixed to a surface of the interior cavity of the display case configured to illuminate contents within the display case, a refrigeration unit coupled to the display case configured to control temperature within the interior cavity of the display case, and a moisture control system configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired humidity range for the interior cavity of the display case.

[0046] In some embodiments, the display case is configured for daisy-chaining with one or more similar display cases of the controlled-atmosphere display-case system.

[0047] Provided herein is a controlled-atmosphere display-case system for prolonged storage of contents including, in some embodiments, a display case including a rigid housing having an interior cavity; an inlet valve coupled to the case configured to convey an inert gas to the interior cavity of the display case; a vacuum valve coupled to the case configured to convey a mixed gas from the interior cavity of the display case; a vacuum pump in fluid communication with the interior cavity of the display case by way of the vacuum valve, the vacuum pump configured to evacuate the mixed gas from the interior cavity of the display case; a pressure gauge actuator coupled to the display case configured to regulate a concentration of the inert gas within the interior cavity of the display case by way of a pressure of the inert gas or mixed gas; and a moisture control system configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired humidity range for the interior cavity of the display case.

[0048] In some embodiments, the vacuum valve and the inlet valve are on opposite sides of the display case enabling the vacuum pump to evacuate the mixed gas including oxygen from the interior cavity of the display case as the inert gas is conveyed into the interior cavity of the display case by way of the inlet valve.

[0049] In some embodiments, the controlled-atmosphere display-case system further includes an inert gas supply in fluid communication with the interior cavity by way of the inlet valve, the inert gas supply including a tank or generator of the inert gas.

[0050] In some embodiments, the vacuum pump and the inert gas supply are configured to cooperate to flush the mixed gas including oxygen from the interior cavity of the display case with the inert gas, thereby extending a shelf life of any contents within the interior cavity of the display case. [0051] In some embodiments, the display case includes a front upper portion and side upper portions of glass to facilitate direct observation of any contents stored within the interior cavity of the display case while also substantially preventing transmission of ultraviolet radiation.

[0052] In some embodiments, the display case includes a front lower portion, side lower portions, a top portion, a bottom portion, and a back wall of stainless steel.

[0053] In some embodiments, the controlled-atmosphere display-case system further includes a lighting system including one or more lights fixed to a surface of the interior cavity of the display case configured to illuminate contents within the display case.

[0054] In some embodiments, the controlled-atmosphere display-case system further includes a refrigeration unit coupled to the display case configured to control temperature within the interior cavity of the display case, wherein the refrigeration unit includes a thermostat configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired temperature range for the interior cavity of the display case.

[0055] Provided herein is a controlled-atmosphere display-case system for prolonged storage of contents including, in some embodiments, a display case including a rigid housing having an interior cavity; an inlet valve coupled to the case configured to convey an inert gas to the interior cavity of the display case; a vacuum valve coupled to the case configured to convey a mixed gas from the interior cavity of the display case; a vacuum pump in fluid communication with the interior cavity of the display case by way of the vacuum valve, wherein the vacuum pump is configured to evacuate the mixed gas from the interior cavity of the display case; a pressure gauge actuator coupled to the display case configured to regulate a concentration of the inert gas within the interior cavity of the display case by way of a pressure of the inert gas or mixed gas; a refrigeration unit coupled to the display case configured to control temperature within the interior cavity of the display case; a moisture control system configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired humidity range for the interior cavity of the display case; and a lighting system including one or more lights fixed to a surface of the interior cavity of the display case configured to illuminate contents within the display case. [0056] In some embodiments, the display case includes a front upper portion and side upper portions of glass to facilitate direct observation of any contents stored within the interior cavity of the display case while also substantially preventing transmission of ultraviolet radiation. The display case also includes a front lower portion, side lower portions, a top portion, a bottom portion, and a back wall of stainless steel. The vacuum valve and the inlet valve are on opposite sides of the display case enabling the vacuum pump to evacuate the mixed gas including oxygen from the interior cavity of the display case as the inert gas is conveyed into the interior cavity of the display case by way of the inlet valve.

[0057] In some embodiments, the controlled-atmosphere display-case system further includes an inert gas supply in fluid communication with the interior cavity by way of the inlet valve, the inert gas supply including a tank or generator of the inert gas.

DRAWINGS

[0058] The drawings refer to embodiments of the present disclosure in which:

[0059] FIG. 1 illustrates a front isometric view of an embodiment of a controlled atmosphere display case that is suitable for prolonged storage of produce contents within the case;

[0060] FIG. 2A illustrates a front isometric view of an embodiment of a controlled atmosphere storage case that is suitable for prolonged home storage of produce contents, such as cannabis; and

[0061] FIG. 2B illustrates a rear isometric view of the embodiment of the controlled atmosphere storage case illustrated in FIG. 2A.

[0062] While the present disclosure is subject to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments thereof have been shown by way of example in the drawings and will herein be described in detail. The invention should be understood to not be limited to the particular forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the present disclosure.

DESCRIPTION

[0063] In the following description, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present disclosure. It will be apparent, however, to one of ordinary skill in the art that the invention disclosed herein may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, specific numeric references such as "first tank," may be made. However, the specific numeric reference should not be interpreted as a literal sequential order but rather interpreted that the "first tank" is different than a "second tank." Thus, the specific details set forth are merely examples. The specific details may be varied from and still be contemplated to be within the spirit and scope of the present disclosure. The term "coupled" is defined as meaning connected either directly to the component or indirectly to the component through another component. Further, as used herein, the terms "about," "approximately," or "substantially" for any numerical values or ranges indicate a suitable dimensional tolerance that allows the part or collection of components to function for its intended purpose as described herein.

[0064] In general, the present disclosure describes an apparatus and a method for a controlled atmosphere display case for prolonged storage of plant-based contents within the case. The controlled atmosphere display case is a case, or a rigid housing, having an interior cavity. An inert gas supply is in fluid communication with the interior cavity and configured to supply an inert gas into the interior cavity. An inlet valve coupled with the case and the inert gas supply are configured to direct the inert gas into the interior cavity. The inert gas includes nitrogen gas, or a combination of inert gases that includes nitrogen gas. A vacuum pump is coupled with the case and in fluid communication with the interior cavity by way of a vacuum valve. The vacuum pump and the inert gas supply are configured to cooperate so as to create a nitrogen flush that effectively replaces normal, oxygen-rich air within the interior cavity with nitrogen gas. A pressure gauge actuator is coupled with the case and configured to regulate the concentration of nitrogen gas within the interior cavity. A refrigeration unit is coupled with the case and configured to control temperature and moisture within the interior cavity. The pressure gauge actuator may include a thermostat and a moisture meter configured to enable an operator or technician to specify a desired temperature range and a humidity range within the interior cavity. The nitrogen flush disclosed herein advantageously extends the shelf life of plant-based produce that may be stored within the interior cavity. [0065] FIG. 1 illustrates an embodiment of a controlled atmosphere display case 100 that is suitable for prolonged storage of produce contents within the case. The controlled atmosphere display case 100 generally is a hollow case 104 having an interior cavity that is in fluid communication with a nitrogen supply 108. The nitrogen supply 108 may be any suitable supply of nitrogen gas, such as a nitrogen tank or a nitrogen generator. A nitrogen inlet valve 112 may be coupled with the case 104 and the nitrogen supply 108 so as to convey the nitrogen gas into the interior cavity of the case 104.

[0066] Although the nitrogen supply 108 is described herein as being a nitrogen tank or a nitrogen generator, it is contemplated that gases other than nitrogen may be incorporated into some embodiments of the controlled atmosphere display case 100. Therefore, it should be understood that, in some embodiments, inert gases other than nitrogen may be used either in lieu of the nitrogen supply 108 or in combination with the nitrogen supply, without limitation.

[0067] A vacuum pump 116 may be coupled with the case 104 and placed into fluid communication with the interior cavity by way of a vacuum valve 118. In some embodiments, the vacuum pump 116 and the nitrogen inlet valve 112 may be coupled to opposite sides of the case 104, such that the vacuum pump 116 evacuates normal, oxygen-rich air, or mixed gas (e.g., the oxygen-rich air, optionally with an increased concentration of nitrogen from previously flushing with nitrogen), from the interior cavity as nitrogen gas is conveyed into the cavity by way of the nitrogen inlet valve 112. A pressure gauge actuator 120 may be coupled with the case 104 and used to regulate the concentration of nitrogen gas within the interior cavity of the case. As will be appreciated, therefore, operating the nitrogen supply 108 and the vacuum pump 116 simultaneously creates a nitrogen flush that effectively replaces the normal, oxygen-rich air within the interior cavity of the case 104 with nitrogen gas.

[0068] It is contemplated that nitrogen flushing may be particular suitable for extending the shelf life of cannabis. Oxygen is well known to convert THC in cannabis to cannabinol, or CBN, which tends to lower the psychoactive attributes of the cannabis. Nitrogen flushing generally stops the conversion of THC to CBN, and thus keeps the cannabis fresh in appearance and taste, for an extended period of time. Further, storing cannabis in a nitrogen-rich environment is known to mask the aroma of cannabis, and also helps keep cannabis free of molds. Essentially, nitrogen flushing prolongs the shelf life of the cannabis, so that it maintains its potency. Nitrogen flushing has a further benefit of keeping delicate products from being crushed, as often occurs with vacuum packaging.

[0069] In some embodiments, the nitrogen inlet valve 112 and the vacuum valve 118 may be configured as modular valves so as to facilitate coupling together two or more cases 104. As will be appreciated, a number of the cases 104 may be coupled together, or daisy chained, to enable displaying of the contents within the cases 104 in a store or product dispensary environment. Groups of the cases 104 may be coupled to one nitrogen supply 108 and to one vacuum pump 116, or each of the cases 104 in a group may be individually evacuated and supplied with nitrogen, as described herein.

[0070] As further illustrated in FIG. 1, a refrigeration unit 124 may be incorporated into the case 104 so as to control temperature and moisture within the interior cavity of the case. In some embodiments, the pressure gauge actuator 120 may be configured to include a thermostat and/or a moisture meter. Thus, an operator of technician of the controlled atmosphere display case 100 may specify a desired temperature range and a moisture content range within the case 104. The pressure gauge actuator 120 may be in electrical communication with the refrigeration unit 124, such that the pressure gauge actuator may activate the refrigeration unit when the thermostat detects a temperature outside of the desired range. Moreover, the refrigeration unit 124 may be configured to include a moisture control system, or the moisture control system can stand alone as a separate system. Humidity within the case 104 may be controlled based on a moisture content range selected by the operator or technician.

[0071] A lighting system (not shown) includes one or more lights (e.g., light-emitting diodes ["LEDs"]) fixed to a surface of the interior cavity of the display case. The lighting system is configured to illuminate any contents within the display case.

[0072] An electrical power supply (not shown) preferably is coupled with the nitrogen supply 108, the vacuum pump 116, the pressure gauge actuator 120, the refrigeration unit 124, the moisture control system (if separate from the refrigeration unit), and the lighting system. In general, the electrical power supply may include electrical circuitry and components that are configured to receive electricity from a power source, such as an AC wall socket or one or more suitable batteries. The electrical power supply may convey suitably configured electric power to each of the nitrogen supply 108, the vacuum pump 116, the pressure gauge actuator 120, and the refrigeration unit 124. It should be understood, however, that the electrical power supply is to be interpreted to be any source of electricity suitable for operating the components including the controlled atmosphere display case 100, without limitation.

[00731 The case 104 is a generally rigid housing suitable for storing and displaying contents, such as the above-mentioned cannabis, within a nitrogen-rich atmosphere. In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 1, a front upper portion 128 and side upper portions 132 of the case 104 may include glass to facilitate direct observation of the contents stored within the interior cavity of the case. The glass may be treated and/or include a coating that substantially prevents transmission of damaging ultraviolet ("UV") radiation. In some embodiments, the glass may be configured to block entry of up to 99% of UV radiation into the case 104.

[0074] A front lower portion 136 and side lower portions 140 of the case 104 may be a rigid, structural material, such as any of various suitable metals. In the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 1, the front lower portion 136 and the side lower portions 140 can be stainless steel. Similarly, a top portion 144 of the case 104, as well as a bottom portion and a back wall (not shown), can be stainless steel, or other suitable rigid material. Moreover, it is contemplated that the back wall of the case 104 may include a hinged door, or other similar type of opening to facilitate accessing the contents being stored within the interior cavity of the case. The hinged door, or other similar type of opening preferably includes a seal that is configured to prevent entry of outside, oxygen-rich air into the interior cavity of the case 104.

[0075] FIGS. 2 A and 2B illustrate an embodiment of a controlled atmosphere storage case 160 that is suitable for prolonged home storage of plant-based produce contents, such as cannabis. The controlled atmosphere storage case 160 generally is a rigid housing 164 having an interior cavity that is in fluid communication with a nitrogen supply 168. As shown in FIG. 2B, the nitrogen supply 168 may be coupled directed with the housing 164 and any suitable supply of nitrogen gas, such as a nitrogen tank or a nitrogen generator. A nitrogen inlet valve may be disposed between the housing 164 and the nitrogen supply 168 so as to convey the nitrogen gas into the interior cavity of the housing 164. [0076] As best shown in FIG. 2B, a vacuum pump 172 may be coupled directly with a rear wall 176 of the housing 164 and placed into fluid communication with the interior cavity by way of a vacuum valve. As will be appreciated, the vacuum pump 172 and the nitrogen supply 168 are configured to cooperate in nitrogen flushing the interior cavity of the housing 164. In some embodiments, a pressure gauge actuator (not shown) may be coupled with the housing 164 so as enable regulating the nitrogen gas concentration within the interior cavity. As described hereinabove, ensuring a nitrogen-rich atmosphere is maintained within the interior cavity advantageously prolongs the shelf life of plant-based produce so that it remains fresh and substantially free of molds.

[0077] A refrigeration unit 180 may be directly coupled with the housing 164 and configured to control temperature and moisture within the interior cavity of the housing. The refrigeration unit 124 preferably includes a moisture control system whereby humidity within the housing 164 may be controlled as desired. In some embodiments, a thermostat and/or a moisture meter may be incorporated into the housing 164. It is contemplated, therefore, that an operator or technician of the controlled atmosphere storage case 160 may specify a desired temperature range and a moisture content range within the housing 164. The thermostat and the moisture meter may be in electrical communication with the refrigeration unit 180, such that the refrigeration unit 180 may be activated when the temperature and/or humidity within the housing 164 drifts outside of the desired ranges.

[0078] An electrical power supply 184 preferably is coupled with the nitrogen supply 168, the vacuum pump 172, and the refrigeration unit 180. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2B, the electrical power supply 184 is illustrated in the form of a power cord that may be plugged into an AC wall socket. It should be understood, however, that the electrical power supply 184 may include electrical circuitry and components that are configured to receive electricity from the AC wall socket and convey suitably configured electric power to each of the nitrogen supply 168, the vacuum pump 172, and the refrigeration unit 180. The electrical power supply 184 is not to be limited to the illustrated power cord, however. For example, in some embodiments, the electrical power supply 184 may include one or more suitable batteries, such as a lithium-ion battery pack. Thus, the electrical power supply 184 should be interpreted to be any source of electricity suitable for operating each of the nitrogen supply 168, the vacuum pump 172, and the refrigeration unit 180, without limitation.

[0079] As described above, the housing 164 is a generally rigid enclosure suitable for storing and displaying plant-based contents, such as cannabis, within a nitrogen-rich atmosphere. In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 2 A and 2B, a front door 188 of the housing 164 may be coupled with the housing 164 by way of hinges and include glass so as to facilitate direct observation of the contents stored within the interior cavity of the housing. The glass may be treated and/or include a coating that substantially prevents transmission of damaging UV radiation. In some embodiments, the glass may be configured to block entry of up to 99% of UV radiation into the interior cavity of the housing 164. A handle 192 may be disposed on the outside of the front door 188 and configured to enable opening and closing of the front door by an operator or technician. It is further contemplated that a seal may be disposed between the front door 188 and the housing 164 so as to prevent entry of outside, oxygen-rich air into the interior cavity of the housing 164.

[0080] The housing 164 may further include a top wall 196, side walls 200, and a bottom wall 204 of rigid, structural materials. Any of the walls 176, 196, 200, or 204 may be any of various suitable metals, without limitation. In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS: 2A and 2B, the walls 176, 196, 200, and 204 are each stainless steel.

[0081] While the invention has been described in terms of particular variations and illustrative figures, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the invention is not limited to the variations or figures described. In addition, where methods and steps described above indicate certain events occurring in certain order, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the ordering of certain steps may be modified and that such modifications are in accordance with the variations of the invention. Additionally, certain of the steps may be performed concurrently in a parallel process when possible, as well as performed sequentially as described above. To the extent there are variations of the invention, which are within the spirit of the disclosure or equivalent to the inventions found in the claims, it is the intent that this patent will cover those variations as well. Therefore, the present disclosure is to be understood as not limited by the specific embodiments described herein, but only by scope of the appended claims.