Blackfoot, U.S.

Idaho Hydro Tech on cutting edge of protecting stored potatoes

In 1985, Garry Isaacs patented the ‘humigator’ and six years ago he started a company called Idaho Hydro Tech to manufacture it. The name is a combination of fumigator and humidifier, describing its two functions. Idaho Hydro Tech now has customers in eight states and two Canadian provinces.

The humigator uses a patented "venturi scrubber" to remove mould spores and bacteria from the air inside potato storage without the use of physical filters or chemicals. It does this while maintaining humidity inside the storage facility. The humigator sucks in the storage space air and blends it with water. Inside the scrubber mechanism, water droplets of different sizes collide. Through the collision process, larger droplets encapsulate moulds and microbes.

The larger droplets are then removed by weight separation, along with the pathogens they have captured. The smaller water droplets are sent back into the potato storage to maintain humidity. So the humigator lives up to its name: scrubbing pathogens out of the storage air while humidifying it at the same time.

In March 2017, Boise State and Idaho State Universities received a joint $500,000 IGEM grant from the State of Idaho to support the development of two potato storage technologies. ISU's portion of the grant was $200,000 specifically to study the pathogen-removal ability of the humigator. A special humigator model was installed in a dedicated lab run by microbiologist Peter Sheridan. The equipment has the ability to scrub all of the air in the lab once every 11 minutes.

According to an article, further testing by Sheridan will look at further into spore accumulation. Sheridan will also test for the ability of the humigator to remove viruses.

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