Honors Gallery

Implementation of phytosanitary irradiation treatment protocols for tropical fruit

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2010

Award Type:

Region: Far West

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) – Pacific West Area

The State of Hawaii produces a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables, including bananas, papaya, and sweet potato. However, Hawaiian agricultural production traditionally has had limited export potential, especially to the U.S. mainland, because of agricultural pests such as fruit flies. Quarantine restrictions and phytosanitary measures have therefore been applied to Hawaiian exports, greatly limiting the amount of product that can be shipped from the islands to other markets. To address this problem, Drs. Peter Follett and Marisa Wall have developed generic irradiation protocols as phytosanitary control measures for a wide variety of quarantine insect pests that infest fresh commodities. This first-ever use of a generic radiation dose for phytosanitary control in Hawaii permits local agricultural producers to expand their fruit and vegetable exports in an expeditious and economical fashion. Currently, Hawaii has approval to export 18 fruits and 6 vegetables with irradiation to the U.S. mainland. Many years of laboratory research were translated into a commercial reality when an informal collaboration began with a Hawaiian company, Hawaii Pride, LLC. This collaboration turned out to be crucial to technology transfer because Hawaii Pride invested approximately $6 million in an industrial-scale fruit and vegetable irradiator. Without access to this facility—and partnership with Hawaii Pride—Drs. Follett and Wall would not have been able to achieve the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service marketing approval for their generic irradiation protocol. This example of technology transfer is a huge leap forward for Hawaiian agriculture since it provides a fast, economical, and efficient means for Hawaiian producers to export their products to previously restricted markets.