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Title:
METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR STORING A BULK COMMODITY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2003/039272
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A method and system for storing of a bulk commodity utilizes a flexible, low air-permeable sheet material enclosure (18) in which the bulk commodity is hermetically sealed. The atmosphere in the sealed flexible sheet material enclosure (18) is evacuated to establish a vacuum therein using a vacuum device (26). The vacuum is maintained during at least a portion of the storage of the commodity to ensure a significant reduction of the commodity. The temperature of the commodity is maintained sufficiently high to ensure substantial total kill of infesting insects within a desired time period. At least a portion of the commodity can be removed from the enclosure by opening a hermetic seal therein.

Inventors:
Villers, Philippe (21 Whit's End Road Concord, MA, 01742, US)
Application Number:
PCT/US2001/046679
Publication Date:
May 15, 2003
Filing Date:
November 05, 2001
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
GRAINPRO, INC. (200 Baker Avenue Suite 309 Concord, MA, 01742, US)
Villers, Philippe (21 Whit's End Road Concord, MA, 01742, US)
International Classes:
A23B9/02; A23B9/18; A23B9/20; A23L3/3418; B65B31/00; (IPC1-7): A23L3/3418; A23L3/3445
Domestic Patent References:
1995-04-13
2002-06-06
Foreign References:
DE3832390A11990-04-05
US5881881A1999-03-16
EP1145640A12001-10-17
US5794408A1998-08-18
FR2795055A12000-12-22
FR2611669A11988-09-09
FR2643231A11990-08-24
US4416908A1983-11-22
DE3209930A11983-09-22
Other References:
PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 018, no. 351 (C-1220), 4 July 1994 (1994-07-04) & JP 06 090660 A (NORIN SUISANSYO KAJIYU SHIKENJO), 5 April 1994 (1994-04-05)
PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 009, no. 309 (C-318), 5 December 1985 (1985-12-05) & JP 60 149509 A (YOUMEISHIYU SEIZOU KK), 7 August 1985 (1985-08-07)
PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 016, no. 311 (M-1277), 8 July 1992 (1992-07-08) & JP 04 087966 A (YUNICHIKA RISAACHI RABO:KK), 19 March 1992 (1992-03-19)
PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 015, no. 396 (M-1166), 8 October 1991 (1991-10-08) & JP 03 162268 A (MARUSHIYOU KASEI KK), 12 July 1991 (1991-07-12)
PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 1996, no. 02, 29 February 1996 (1996-02-29) & JP 07 284327 A (KOICHI TOSAKA), 31 October 1995 (1995-10-31)
PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 015, no. 031 (C-0798), 24 January 1991 (1991-01-24) -& JP 02 268631 A (AKIRA KISHI), 2 November 1990 (1990-11-02)
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Graeser, D'vorah (G.E.Ehrlich Ltd. 28 Bezalel Street Ramat Gan, 52521, IL)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS What is claimed is:
1. A method for storing a bulk commodity, comprising: hermetically sealing the commodity in a flexible, low airpermeable sheet material enclosure; evacuating the atmosphere in the sealed sheet material enclosure to establish a vacuum therein; maintaining the vacuum during at least a portion of the storage of the commodity ; and maintaining a temperature sufficiently high within substantially all portions of the commodity to ensure substantial total kill of infesting insects within a desired time period.
2. The method of Claim 1 wherein the established vacuum is in the range of about 35100 mm of mercury at a temperature of about 18 degrees Celsius or higher.
3. The method of Claim 1 wherein the desired time period is a time period in which substantial degradation occurs if the commodity were not protected from degradation.
4. The method of Claim 3 wherein the degradation is caused by insects already in the commodity before it is sealed.
5. The method of Claim 3 wherein the degradation is produced at least in part by the effect of oxidation of the commodity.
6. The method of Claim 3 wherein the degradation is produced at least in part by the effect of heat produced by the commodity.
7. The method of Claim 3 wherein the degradation is produced at least in part by the effect of the growth of microorganisms in the commodity.
8. The method of Claim 3 wherein the degradation is produced at least in part by the effect of the growth of fungi in the commodity.
9. The method of Claim 1 wherein the commodity has a weight in the range of onehalf ton to three hundred metric tons.
10. The method of Claim 1 wherein the sheet material includes plastic.
11. The method of Claim 10 wherein the plastic sheet material includes an ultravioletresistant polyvinyl chloride.
12. The method of Claim 10 wherein the sheet material has a thickness of at least about. 813 mm (. 032 inches).
13. The method of Claim 2 further comprising maintaining the vacuum during the storage of the commodity.
14. The method of Claim 1 wherein the commodity is stored in the enclosure for less than 4 days.
15. The method of Claim 1 wherein the commodity is stored in the enclosure for at least 30 days.
16. The method of Claim 1 further comprising injecting an insecticidal gas into the enclosure to reduce the desired time period.
17. The method of Claim 1 further comprising opening a hermetic seal in the sheet material enclosure in order to remove therefrom at least a portion of the commodity.
18. A system for storing a commodity, comprising: a flexible, low airpermeable sheet material enclosure for substantially hermetically enclosing the commodity ; and a vacuum pump coupled to the enclosure for establishing a vacuum therein for at least a portion of the storage of the commodity; the temperature of the commodity being maintained sufficiently high within substantially all portions of the commodity to ensure substantial total kill of infesting insects within a desired time period.
19. The system of Claim 18 further comprising at least one filter and/or condenser disposed between the enclosure and the vacuum pump to prevent clogging or damage to the pump.
20. The system of Claim 18 further comprising a eatable environment for maintaining the temperature of the commodity.
21. The system of Claim 18 wherein the enclosure includes a polyvinyl chloride having a thickness of about. 813 mm (. 032 inches).
22. The system of Claim 18 further comprising an insecticidal gas that is injected into the enclosure to reduce the desired time period.
23. A system for storing a commodity, comprising: a flexible, low airpermeable container for substantially hermetically enclosing the commodity ; and a vacuum device for establishing a vacuum in the container ; the temperature of the commodity being maintained sufficiently high within substantially all portions of the commodity to ensure that substantially all of the infesting insects are killed within a desired maximum time.
24. A method for storing a bulk food commodity which can be degraded by insects, comprising : hermetically sealing the food commodity in a flexible, low air permeable sheet material enclosure; evacuating the atmosphere in the sealed sheet material enclosure to establish a vacuum therein; maintaining the vacuum during at least a portion of the storage of the food commodity; and maintaining a temperature sufficiently high within substantially all portions of the food commodity to ensure substantial total kill of infesting insects within a desired time period.
25. A method for storing a bulk commodity which is degradable in the presence of oxygen, comprising: hermetically sealing the commodity in a flexible, low airpermeable sheet material enclosure; evacuating the atmosphere in the sealed sheet material enclosure to establish a vacuum therein; maintaining the vacuum during at least a portion of the storage of the commodity to ensure a significant reduction in the production of aflatoxins; and maintaining a temperature sufficiently high within substantially all portions of the commodity to ensure significant total kill of infesting insects within a desired time period.
26. A method for storing a bulk commodity which is degradable in the presence of oxygen, comprising: hermetically sealing the commodity in a flexible, low airpermeable sheet material enclosure; evacuating the atmosphere in the sealed sheet material enclosure to establish a vacuum therein; maintaining the vacuum during at least a portion of the storage of the commodity to significantly reduce the growth rate of bacteria which can degrade the commodity; and maintaining a temperature sufficiently high within substantially all portions of the commodity to ensure substantial total kill of infesting insects within a desired time period.
27. A method for storing a bulk commodity which is degradable in the presence of oxygen, comprising: hermetically sealing the commodity in a flexible, low airpermeable sheet material enclosure; evacuating the atmosphere in the sealed sheet material enclosure to establish a vacuum therein; maintaining the vacuum during at least a portion of the storage of the commodity to ensure a significant reduction in chemical degradation thereof; and maintaining a temperature sufficiently high within substantially all portions of the commodity to ensure substantial total kill of infesting insects within a desired time period.
Description:
METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR STORING A BULK COMMODITY RELATED APPLICATION This application is a continuation-in-part of Application No. 09/667, 481, filed September 22,2000. The entire teachings of the above application are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Commodities stored in bulk which are degradable in the presence of oxygen such as coffee, grains, fruits, cocoa, and the like, are subject to deleterious effects including extensive loss caused by insects in the commodity during storage, the effects of oxygen during storage produced, for example, by the growth of micro- organisms such as aerobic bacteria and/or fungi in the commodity, and other impacts on the quality, nutritional purposes, safety, purity, appearance, taste, aroma and freshness of the commodity.

A well known method for storage of a bulk biologically-active commodity utilizes a hermetically sealed enclosure formed from a flexible, low air-permeable sheet material employing the slow depletion of oxygen by respiration of live insects present in the commodity, and by the commodity itself. However, this process can take significant time and can rely on a significant level of infestation to deplete the oxygen. In addition, after the insects die, the oxygen level gradually rises due to infiltration of oxygen through the enclosure, thereby permitting various oxidation and oxygen-related effects in the stored commodity, including the growth of fungi, and hence the growth of undesirable aflatoxins.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In accordance with the present invention, to ensure the rapid kill of insects as well as to protect the commodity from oxygen-effected deteriorations such as the growth of fungi, micro-organisms, and oxidation, the commodity is sealed within an

enclosure after which the atmosphere therein is evacuated to establish a vacuum.

The vacuum is maintained during at least a portion of the storage of the bulk commodity. Handling of the bulk commodity is achieved through selectively opening and closing an airtight seal in the enclosure formed by a flexible, low air- permeable sheet material. The temperature of the commodity is maintained sufficiently high within substantially all portions of the commodity to ensure substantial total kill of infesting insects within a desired time period. In alternative embodiments, the method can include opening a hermetic seal in the sheet material enclosure in order to remove therefrom at least a portion of the commodity.

A system for storing a commodity is also provided which includes a flexible, low air-permeable sheet material enclosure for substantially hermetically enclosing the commodity. A vacuum pump coupled to the enclosure establishes a vacuum therein for at least a portion of the storage of the commodity. The temperature of the commodity is maintained sufficiently high within substantially all portions of the commodity to ensure that substantially all of the infesting insects are killed within a desired time period.

A method for storing a bulk food commodity which can be degraded by insects is also provided which includes hermetically sealing the food commodity in a flexible, low air-permeable sheet material enclosure, evacuating the atmosphere in the sealed sheet material enclosure to establish a vacuum therein, and maintaining the vacuum during at least a portion of the storage of the food commodity. The method also includes maintaining a temperature sufficiently high within substantially all portions of the food commodity to ensure substantial total kill of all infesting insects within a desired time period.

An alternative method for storing a bulk commodity which is degradable in the presence of oxygen is provided which includes hermetically sealing the commodity in a flexible, low air-permeable sheet material enclosure, evacuating the atmosphere in the sealed sheet material enclosure to establish a vacuum therein, and maintaining the vacuum during at least a portion of the storage of the commodity to ensure a significant reduction in the production of aflatoxins. The method also includes maintaining a temperature sufficiently high within substantially all portions

of the commodity to ensure substantial total kill of infesting insects within a desired time period.

Another method for storing a bulk commodity which is degradable in the presence of oxygen is provided which includes hermetically sealing the commodity in a flexible, low air-permeable sheet material enclosure, evacuating the atmosphere in the sealed sheet material enclosure to establish a vacuum therein, and maintaining the vacuum during at least a portion of the storage of the commodity to significantly reduce the growth rate of bacteria which can degrade the commodity. The method also includes maintaining a temperature sufficiently high within substantially all portions of the commodity to ensure substantial total kill of infesting insects within a desired time period.

Yet another method for storing a bulk commodity which is degradable in the presence of oxygen is provided which includes hermetically sealing the commodity in a flexible, low air-permeable sheet material enclosure, evacuating the atmosphere in the sealed sheet material enclosure to establish a vacuum therein, and maintaining the vacuum during at least a portion of the storage of the commodity to ensure a significant reduction in chemical degradation of the commodity. The method also includes maintaining a temperature sufficiently high within substantially all portions of the commodity to ensure substantial total kill of infesting insects within a desired time period.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS The foregoing and other objects, features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following more particular description of preferred embodiments of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings in which like reference characters refer to the same parts throughout the different views. The drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon illustrating the principles of the invention.

Figure 1 is a flow diagram in block form of one embodiment of the invention.

Figure 2 is a perspective view of a storage system in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

Figure 3 is a schematic of a vacuum system in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION A description of preferred embodiments of the invention follows. One embodiment of the invention is illustrated in Figures 1-3. In step 10, a commodity is hermetically sealed in a flexible container or enclosure 18, such as that formed from a. 813 mm (. 032 inch), low air-permeable, ultraviolet-resistant food grade polyvinyl chloride sheet (PVC) material. In one embodiment, the container can include a PVC enclosure marketed by GrainPro, Inc. of Concord, Massachusetts under the trade name Cocoons'. The commodity can be packaged in individual jute bags 22 and stored on pallets 24 within the enclosure 18.

In the context of a hermetic enclosure, low air-permeable can be defined as low air-permeability through the enclosure compared to the initial consumption of air by the insects. If a vacuum is used, low air-permeable can be defined as low air permeability through the enclosure compared to the pumping capability of the vacuum at a designated pressure. In one embodiment, the enclosure is 15 m3 with a ten metric ton capacity, and has an infiltration rate of less than about 10 liters/minute at 40 mm Hg. Even lower infiltration rates can be achieved with different materials that form the low air-permeable enclosures.

In step 12, a vacuum 20 is established in the enclosure by using a conventional commercial vacuum pump and set point regulator. The flexible container or enclosure prevents excessive stresses when evacuated as would occur with a rigid container by conforming to the shape of the enclosed commodity. The vacuum 20, as shown in Figure 3, can include a vacuum pump 26 driven by a motor 28. Tubing or hose 38 connects the enclosure 18 to the vacuum pump 26.

An opening in the enclosure 18, which can be opened or closed by means such as a solenoid-controlled inlet valve, is fed to the vacuum pump 26 with, if needed, an appropriate filter 30 in line 38 to prevent clogging or damage to the pump. In a particular embodiment, the vacuum pump 26 is allowed to run for an extended period of time so that either or both oxygen and interstitial moisture inside

are substantially removed, typically down to a vacuum of 25-100 mm Hg at room temperature representing an oxygen level equivalent to normal pressure of 3-13%.

At this time, the inlet valve is closed, and the hermetically sealed enclosure becomes a large"vacuum pack" (step 14), with periodic pumping as required to compensate for residual infiltration of air, eliminating any of the respective causes of degradation named above due to either direct or indirect effects of oxygen. Further, any residual moisture in the absence of oxygen will not as easily cause moisture- produced damage. The vacuum 20 can be controlled by control panel 34 coupled to a pressure sensor 32 to maintain a desired vacuum level. In alternative embodiments, the vacuum pump 26 runs continuously during storage of the commodity and is turned on and off by an on/off switch.

The time, temperature, and vacuum conditions for removing biologically- active contaminants are a function of the type of contaminant, e. g. , the type of insect infestation, temperature, and the desired kill time. For example, it has been found that a 100% kill of insects in coffee and cocoa beans can be achieved in three days using a vacuum in the range of 30-50 mm Hg at room temperature. In some applications, it is desirable to remove the oxygen from the stored commodity to preserve the freshness which affects the taste of the commodity. In other applications, it is desirable to remove the oxygen from the stored commodity so that growth of fungi is curtailed and hence the production of aflatoxins. Thus, in step 16, the temperature of the commodity is maintained sufficiently high to ensure substantial kill of infesting insects within a desired time period. Generally, the higher the temperature, the faster the insects will die as they respire more rapidly to deplete air within the hermetic enclosure 18.

In alternative embodiments, an insecticidal gas, such as propylene oxide, ozone, etc. , can be injected into the hermetic enclosure 18, before or after applying a vacuum to the enclosure, to accelerate the kill time of the insects. In a particular embodiment, the insecticidal gas is injected into the hermetic enclosure prior to applying a vacuum to the enclosure 18. Of course, when additional gases are injected into the hermetic enclosure 18, care must be taken to avoid gas mixtures which are flammable, explosive, etc.

Removal of the commodity from the sealed enclosure can be made through a commercially available hermetic"zipper, "such as the zipper sold by ITW Maxigrip Specialty Applications Group under the trademark MAXIGRIP, that is provided on the hermetic enclosure.

Example 1 It has been shown experimentally that the kill time for various life stages and species of insects varies as between life stages and species and is a strong function of ambient temperature. As shown in the Table below, for 3 common insect pests, the kill time varies between the insects, and between the different life stages of the same insect. In these experiments, a commodity was placed in a hermetic enclosure 18 and a vacuum of 35 mm Hg was applied.

Insect Species Life 25°C 33°C 37°C 40°C Stage Tribolium Eggs 27. 62 hours, 16. 31 hours 11. 17 hours 4. 12 hours castaneum (Red Flour Larvae 3.46 hours 3.29 hours 2.56 hours 1.94 hours Beetle) Pupae 12.73 hours 11. 48 hours 9. 35 hours 3.83 hours Plodia Eggs 28.35 hours 6.21 hours 4.00 hours 2.49 hours I interpttrtctella (Indian Meal Larvae 3 : 99 hours 2.69 hours 2.07 hours 2.10 hours Moth) Pupae 5.35 hours 2.65 hours 2.44 hours 1.64 hours Rhyzopertha Eggs 176.32 hours 85.98 hours 46.32 hours 11.24 hours dominica (Lesser Grain Larvae 83.80 hours 49.58 hours 19.45 hours 6.47 hours Borer) Pupae 98.28 hours 56.20 hours 22. 14 hours 8.65 hours It has been discovered that the minimum temperature needed to ensure substantial total kill of all infesting insects within a desired time period is reached at substantially all portions of the commodity. Thus, one must maintain the coolest part

of the commodity at or above a given temperature, for example, with a heated warehouse, in the hermetic enclosure 18 for the greatest time period of the 3 life stages to kill the desired species.

It has been found that a vacuum of between about 35-50 mm Hg and a temperature above about 18 degrees Celsius, and particular in the range of about 25- 40 degrees Celsius, works particularly well in the storage of some commodities.

While this invention has been particularly shown and described with references to preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and details may be made therein without departing from the scope of the invention encompassed by the appended claims.