Storage technology

In Ontario, cold storage technology plays a critical role in preserving the quality and extending the shelf life of many of the fruits and vegetables grown in the province. Ontario’s diverse climate, which of course includes long cold winters, makes storage essential for some crops to ensure a year-round supply. This means you can buy select Ontario fruits and vegetables year-round!

Potatoes and apples are two examples that use storage technology – albeit in very different ways. Potatoes are stored in controlled environments with low temperatures and high humidity to minimize sprouting and maintain freshness. The storage facilities utilize advanced ventilation systems and temperature monitoring to prevent spoilage and optimize conditions for long-term storage.

Apples are stored in low-oxygen environments to slow down the ripening process and maintain their crisp texture. Controlled atmosphere (CA) storage facilities have been used in the Ontario apple industry for more than 50 years. Over 50 per cent of apples grown in the province are stored using CA storage. These storage facilities are equipped with advanced technology, to regulate oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, which preserve flavour and prevent decay.

In other words, apples breathe or respire just like people. They naturally take in oxygen and generate carbon dioxide, water and heat through a process called respiration. CA storage is a completely natural process that reduces respiration to a minimum by controlling the environment in which the fruit is stored.

Apples for CA storage are picked at their peak of internal quality and condition. They are rushed into a CA storage chamber the day they are picked. Once the temperature in the chamber is reduced to 1C, the room is sealed with an airtight door and the oxygen level inside is lowered from a normal level of 21 per cent down to two or three per cent.  This stops the ripening process by essentially putting the apples to sleep (similar to hibernation in animals) until they are ready to go to market.

The adoption of cold storage technologies in Ontario not only ensures a consistent supply of quality potatoes and apples throughout the year, but also supports the economic sustainability of local farmers. Without economic sustainability, there is no environmental sustainability, and growers are much more likely to invest in sustainable practices when it makes financial sense for them.

To learn more about sustainability in the Ontario’s fruit and vegetable sector, visit