As the COVID-19 virus swirls the globe, numerous private companies are retooling their manufacturing to create items to fight the spread—from hockey equipment company Bauer making face shields to Canadian beer giant Labatt Brewing shifting some of its manufacturing from beer to hand sanitizers.
So can agriculture and produce-related equipment do the same? Indeed, as one misting system company is proving.
Marietta, Ga.-based Prodew Inc. has worked in produce equipment for two decades and its co-founder, Itamar Kleinberger, is largely known for helping develop the produce misting systems found in many supermarket produce sections. Today, Prodew is the largest manufacturer of produce misting and humidity systems in the United States and along the way, it broadened its company’s reach by founding Aguair LLC. Aguair takes a scientific and engineering approach to extending the life of perishables from farm-to-fork, through factors such as air sanitization, humidity control, aeroponics, water treatment and biosecurity in greenhouses, storage facilities, processing centers, transportation and retail store backrooms.
Mobile for versatility
The misting technology that’s used in both companies was built into two key pieces of sanitizing equipment: the mobile SaniCart system as well as the ClensAir air sanitization system. And both could now be used on the frontlines against the spread of Coronavirus.
“The cart can be used to disinfect shopping carts, checkout counters, shelves and prep rooms as well as aisles where there are no misting systems,” says Nadya Merchant, M.P.H., Phd, scientific director with both companies. She notes that supermarkets use the technology to sanitize truck trailers in between deliveries as well.
Recognizing the state of the global pandemic, Prodew and Aguair have increased manufacturing both pieces of equipment to become available to frontline healthcare settings such as hospitals and ambulances as well as government agencies. “We’ve had a lot of interest in our air and surface disinfection equipment and realize there is an incredible need and use for our technologies outside the supermarket industry,” says Merchant, who notes that the equipment costs approximately the same as a high-end residential kitchen appliance. “We’re working at the city, county and state level to help with this need. Our goal is to be able to provide the technology to as many institutions and municipalities as we can to help halt the spread of COVID-19 and bring our society back to a stable and normal state.”
How does it work?
The SaniCart is a mobile device that’s wheeled into an enclosed area. The user leaves the room but not before they set the machine with programmable cycle time. “Since the entire room is engulfed in a cloud of disinfectant, no area is left contaminated and the entire room is completely disinfected, including the air and hard-to-reach surfaces,” says Dr. Merchant. The cart’s patented nozzle creates a micro-fog of extremely small droplets, so small that the sanitizing solution remains suspended in the air for an extended period of time before settling onto surfaces.
As for the ClensAir, which Aguair is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to receive its medical device status, it kills a wide range of airborne pathogens including 99.90 percent of the COVID-19 and Influenza simulants. The unit combines six distinct technologies to kill the pathogens as they pass through the air chamber.
Meanwhile the company continues exploring how these technologies can be used to fight COVID-19. Recently, SaniCart was tested by the Netherlands-based TwinOxide Inc., whose chlorine dioxide can be used against strains of pathogens and viruses including the Coronavirus. “When SaniCart™was used to dispense TwinOxide, we were able to quickly achieve and maintain the EPA-prescribed concentration of chlorine dioxide throughout the test environment, thereby killing any coronaviruses that might be present in the air and on surfaces,” said Dr. Joe Nieusma of TwinOxide.