An Ingenious Idea for a Tough Job

Roses, flower bulbs, mangoes, avocados and papayas often go bad on the long journey from their tropical cultivation areas to Europe or North America. Dutch company Liquidseal has developed a coating, based on VAE dispersions, that stunts the metabolism of the crops, thus increasing their shelf life.

It was at a summer garden party, while barbecuing, that neighbors E.R. van den Berg and Victor Monster from Leiden, the Netherlands, came up with their business concept of using a polymer dispersion to extend the shelf life of fruit, vegetables, cut flowers and flower bulbs. “We repeatedly opened and closed the barbecue’s air vent to regulate the oxygen supply,” explained van den Berg, CEO of Liquidseal. “When no oxygen reached the charcoal, the flame went down,” added his colleague Monster. “The coal no longer burnt and thus did not decay.”

Home of Tulip Bulbs

Mango plantations in Thailand: the thick skin of this tropical fruit make mangoes ideal for treatment with Liquidseal.

The two neighbors reckoned that the same principle would also apply to other organic substances. If the oxygen supply to fruit, vegetables or flowers is prevented or hindered after harvest, their metabolism slows down. Consequently, the shelf life of the treated products ought to increase considerably. Leiden is not just the home town of these two entrepreneurs, but was also where the great botanist Carolus Clusius devoted many years of study to his work. The Flemish scholar contributed greatly to the introduction of the potato and the tulip to Central Europe in the second half of the 16th century. The region around Leiden and Utrecht – with its intensively farmed fields and greenhouse belts – is still one of the world’s largest producers of tulip and lily bulbs.

“30% of mango fruit goes bad during transit, according to the rule of thumb.”