Thursday, April 1, 1999

Big Island
farmers to X-ray
for fruit flies

The new system is seen as an
alternative to cobalt irradiation

Star-Bulletin staff


A group of Big Island farmers will install an X-ray system to eliminate fruit flies in mainland-bound fruit and flowers, in what they say is a more environmentally friendly alternative to cobalt irradiation.

San Diego-based Titan Corp. said it will install the system for Hawaii Pride LLC, a company set up by fruit grower Eric Weinert and Hilo businessman John Clark. The plant should be installed in Hilo about the end of this year, Titan said today.

Hawaii fruit and flowers are not allowed into the mainland unless they are certified free of fruit flies. Traditional methods, such as vapor heat treatment, damage the product but radioactive cobalt to kill the pests has been attacked as potentially damaging to the environment.

Price estimates for the Titan X-ray system have ranged from $6 million to more than $10 million. There is also a proposal for a $2 million irradiation plant to be set up near Hilo airport by another company, Mentor, Ohio-based Steris Corp.

Titan, a satellite communications, information technology and sterilization equipment business found in 1981, said its SureBeam X-ray treatment equipment has been used since 1992 and has logged more than 100,000 hours of treatment.

Weinert and Clark are the principal owners of Hawaii Pride, which will own the system, and Titan said it will take a minority interest in the company.

Big Island fruit growers were on the mainland earlier this month to watch tests of the X-ray system conducted by Iowa State University.

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