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Innovation comes with plasma - For the storage and distribution of agricultural produce


Date of registration 2021-01-25

KFE’s Institute of Plasma Technology has paved the way for a paradigm shift in the storage and distribution of agricultural produce with their “Plasma-Technology-Based Smart Storage System.”


|Plasma storage system changes the storing function of humidity and temperature



Organic Onion

Regular Onion

The “Plasma-Technology-Based Smart Storage System” has recorded excellent scores in germ and mycete tests prior to its deployment at farms. The picture on the left is of organic onions, while that on the right show regular onions. In each picture, only the onions on the left had plasma technology applied while stored for a month. 

“Agriculture and ICT met to evolve into smart farms. Likewise, the crops grown on smart farms will meet with a smart storage system to accelerate agricultural innovation,” explained Dr. Seong-Bong Kim, the Director of the Division of Plasma-Bio Convergence. Plasma technology, which has already made substantial contributions to state-of-the-art industries such as the semi-conductor and medical industries, can change the paradigm of produce storage as well. The plasma storage system is a smart storage system that integrates three key elemental technologies (micro-organism sterilization, aging suppression, and respiration suppression) and the storage environment factors of the temperature and humidity for proper control. It is an eco-friendly technology to hinder the respiration and aging of farm products and to sterilize micro-organisms by plasma technology without the use of chemicals. 


Existing low-temperature storage applications focus on minimizing the respiration of produce by lowering the temperature, as animals in hibernation do so as to sustain life. However, the typical temperature of a low-temperature storehouse was around 5℃, which caused cold damage to the stored products. During sizzling summers, electricity bills were another burden, with some storehouses even shutting down due to the high bills resulting from high electricity demand during heat wave periods.


“Until recently, key factors at a low-temperature storehouse were to control the temperature and humidity. However, controlling only these two factors led to limits with regard to the ability to restrict decomposition by micro-organisms, aging and respiration, as there are fungi and germs propagating even at low temperatures. Also, ethylene is not removed,” said Director Kim.


Hence, plasma storage systems are attracting more attention given their ability to control factors such as aging and respiration. The repression of aging and respiration is an original technology novel to existing storage systems. Being the most intricate technique, plasma catalyst hybrid technology was completed to adsorb ethylene selectively, which is the main substance causing the maturation of produce, and to remove it by means of plasma. In addition, a smart automatic control system was developed to enable customized, independent module control depending on the crop by modulizing each function of sterilization, aging suppression and respiration suppression.


|Aiming at operation recipe development based on demonstration data


“Korean fruits and vegetables are renowned overseas for their taste and quality. As the best condition differs from each product, we are planning to complete the optimal storage recipes which even take each product’s distribution stages into account through ceaseless demonstrations.”

Director Kim expects that the completion of recipes tailored for each type of produce will ensure competitive quality for both domestic and export markets.


In addition, another dream of creating a new agricultural distribution system is being realized by transferring related technologies to local companies. The performance has already been proved for the plasma storage system with demonstration tests that began in 2019. Commercialization is planned to begin in earnest from 2021, when additional demonstrations and module, equipment and system tests are to be completed.


The MoU concluded on the 17th of July of 2020 among the Institute of Plasma Technology, and Jeollabuk-do Wanju-gun, and Jeonbuk Technopark was a milestone in relation to this plan. With the MoU, the three institutions will start joint research on plasma technology support and solutions, demonstrate and run a plasma-smart storage system in Wanju-gun, and cooperate closely in various fields such as smart agriculture policies and the organization of new projects. The Institute of Plasma Technology will extend trial projects nationwide based on Wanju-gun’s example after finishing the demonstrations. 


The four plasma technology-based smart storage system testbeds located at the Institute of Plasma Technology, Gunsan

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