As of 2020, the European Commission has banned CIPC as a potato sprout inhibitor. This poses a challenge for many growers. Storage equipment company, Restrain's, Dirk Garos has been working on introducing ethylene in storage situations for 13 years already. This chemical compound halts the formation of sprouts.
"We are close to a major breakthrough. Not only in Europe, but globally, people are looking for residue-free alternatives to CIPC. Farmers try to deliver their potatoes in perfect condition throughout the year. This should not go wrong in the last phase - storage," says Dirk.
"A retailer approached their supplier, Greenvale, at the turn of the century. They wanted Greenvale to research the possibility of offering a residue-free potato. The project was successful. Due to this success, it was decided to set up a dedicated company. And so, Restrain Company Ltd. was born. We are now active in 36 countries."
"I started with this 13 years ago. When I began, I already saw that there was no halt to the trend toward residue-free products. The CIPC ban is forcing many growers to find alternatives. Other substances are, however, already on the to-be-banned list. It will also be far more difficult for new substances to get authorization," Dirk continues.
Ethylene has already been proven as an effective sprout inhibitor. Nowadays, a million tons of potatoes are treated with 1.300 generators. These are now fifth generation generators. PPO trials have shown that the anti-sprouting agent is also beneficial to the frying quality of french fry potatoes.
"Restrain's success lies in the simplicity and reliability of the system. The system can be installed in the storage facility in just five minutes. A Restrain Generator and sensor supply a very low concentration of ethylene gas. This dynamic gas weighs roughly the same as air. It, therefore, spreads out over all the potatoes. This is regardless of whether they are being stored in bulk or containers," explains Dirk.
During storage, ethylene production is stopped by the Restrain generator when it reaches a maximum level. Production starts up again when the minimum level is detected. Treatment continues until the last potato leaves the warehouse. No additional demands are made of the storage facility. Since it has a capacity of almost 6.000 tons, one machine can supply ethylene to all the potatoes being stored.
"Demand is very high now. French fries, chips, starch - anyone who has anything that has to do with potato storage in interested," Dirk continues. He says the availability of their machines is not an issue. "We produce our machines in batches of 500. We can scale this up to 1.000 if needed."
"There are alternatives. However, the disadvantage is that they are not allowed in all countries. They are also more difficult to apply. For example, you have to hermetically seal the storage warehouse, or else the substance escapes. We are also four to six times less expensive than any other CIPC alternative," Dirk concludes.