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OPN Connect Newsletter 303 · January 19, 2023

Ethylene Control’s Products Help Organics Stay Fresh and Keep Their Flavor


Ethylene Control Inc.’s name pretty much says it all.

The company plays a vital role for many growers, packers, and shippers by helping them extend the shelf life of organic and conventional produce through the control and removal of ethylene during the packing and shipping process.

“Ethylene gas is produced by certain commodities, and we take that gas out of the air and slow down the natural decay process,” said Dave Biswell, President and CEO of Ethylene Control, headquartered in Selma, CA. “For example, lettuce turns brown because of ethylene gas, and cucumbers turn yellow. There are all these different decaying factors, and we just slow that down by taking the bad stuff out of the air.”

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Dave Biswell, President and CEO, Ethylene Control

One of Ethylene Control’s key products is its OMRI Listed Super Fresh Sachet. According to Biswell, a single sachet per box protects produce from the packing line to the retail backroom.

The company’s products also include a clean air filtration system for cold storage rooms, which reduces ethylene levels up to 95 percent. It also sells ethylene filters, an ethylene blanket filter, and sachets for consumers.

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“Ethylene gas is produced by certain commodities, and we take that gas out of the air and slow down the natural decay process.” - Dave Biswell

“The raw material is producing a nascent oxygen, so we oxidize the ethylene gas in the air,” Biswell said. “Also, if it comes around our media, then we are going to also kill mold, rots, bacteria, E. coli, and remove odors. Or if it goes through our media machine that I designed for the cold storage, it will kill the bacteria, mold, rots, etc.”

Ethylene Control’s products also extend the shelf life of floral products and cannabis.

OMRI Listed Super Fresh Sachet

“It slows everything down,” Biswell said. “It’s not going to stop anything, of course, because everything is going to have its decay, but it gives you more shelf life, more time with a better product. Or they can pick a product that is riper and has maybe more sugar in it, like stone fruits, peaches, plums. They can pick those a little riper and use our product to slow down the decay process and give consumers a better piece of fruit.”

The company’s story dates back to July of 1986 when Biswell was selling trucks for a Ford dealership in Fresno. Some of his customers were farmers, and in the 1980s, he met someone from Canada who was selling a product to control ethylene.

“It slows everything down. It’s not going to stop anything, of course, because everything is going to have its decay, but it gives you more shelf life, more time with a better product.” - Dave Biswell

“It wasn’t packaged like ours; it was kind of in a gauze, and sometimes if it got wet, it would bleed, unlike ours,” Biswell said. “He gave it up, and I kind of picked it up where he left it off and took it to a different level.”

In the company’s earliest days, Biswell’s product storage facility was a small corner in a barn, and a friend provided him with a space to stack his product and cover it with a top, for $25 a month. After his first year, Biswell made a profit of about $2,500, which he used to buy a fax machine and cell phone.

OMRI Listed Super Fresh Sachets in various sizes

The business has grown since then, to say the least, and Biswell has collaborated with experts at UC Davis and Riverside, Clemson, the University of Texas, the University of Florida, and Cornell to develop better products for ethylene control, including a filter Biswell designed that goes into trucks, sea containers, and walk-ins, which can be used during shipping of products that don’t have a sachet in each box.

Biswell's former one-man operation now has seven employees who work at a 9,000-square-foot facility, which he opened in January of 1994, and where he manufactures Ethylene Control’s filters, filtration systems, and OMRI Listed sachets.

OMRI Listed Super Fresh Sachet

“We make everything right here in Central California,” Biswell said. “Even the raw material, we bring in, the zeolite, which is a volcanic rock, and we bring that in from a mine and then we mix with it the patented formula. We mix all that locally and make all the filters and sachets right here, just outside of Fresno.”

Biswell's former one-man operation now has seven employees who work at a 9,000-square-foot facility, which he opened in January of 1994, and where he manufactures Ethylene Control’s filters, filtration systems, and OMRI Listed sachets.

Ethylene Control’s products are used all over the world, and Biswell also works with distributors in growing areas throughout the world.

“We’re still a small-niche company, and of course we have a lot more competition than we did back in the day,” he said. “But we have a very good university-proven product, which is approved for use with organics and is OMRI Listed, which most products aren’t. So that gives us an edge.”

Biswell began working in organic in Santa Cruz, and those efforts grew over the years.

“We have a very good university-proven product, which is approved for use with organics and is OMRI Listed, which most products aren’t. So that gives us an edge.” - Dave Biswell

“We never really went after the organic industry because a lot of times they don’t think they need it, and a lot of times they don’t need it,” he said. “But if they want to get better shelf life, be able to hold product, get it more mature, and slow down the natural decaying process, they’re finding out they do need it.”

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