Transcript: The Hexanal Project | Oct 22, 2018

A clip shows Jayasankar working in a lab.

Jayasankar is in his late forties, with short straight graying hair and a moustache. He wears glasses, a red shirt and a white lab coat.

Jeyan says THIS IS JAYASANKAR
SUBRAMANIAN. HE'S A FRUIT
BREEDER AND PART OF AN
INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH TEAM
HEADING UP THE HEXANAL PROJECT.
FRUITS CAN BE A GREAT SOURCE OF
NUTRIENTS, RICH IN VITAMINS AND
ANTIOXIDANTS, BUT KEEPING THEM
FROM SPOILING AND ROTTING IS A
CHALLENGE. IT'S A PROBLEM
CONSUMERS, RETAILERS AND FARMERS
HAVE TO DEAL WITH, A PROBLEM
SUBRAMANIAN AND HIS TEAM HOPE TO
SOLVE. SOME OF THAT WORK IS
HAPPENING HERE AT THE UNIVERSITY
OF GUELPH'S FRUIT BREEDING LAB
IN VINELAND, ONTARIO.
HEXANAL IS A NATURAL COMPOUND
FOUND IN ALL PLANTS, AND IT'S
THE NOT-SO-SECRET INGREDIENT IN
HELPING EXTEND THE SHELF LIFE OF
FRUITS. IN ITS PUREST FORM,
HEXANAL IS A COLOURLESS LIQUID.
IT HAS A FRUITY ODOUR AND IS
APPROVED BY HEALTH CANADA AS A
FLAVOUR ENHANCER.
IN FACT, HEXANAL IS A COMMON
INGREDIENT IN FOODS LIKE BUBBLE
GUM.

A caption reads "Jayasankar Subramanian. University of Guelph."

Jayasankar says IN SIMPLE TERMS,
WHAT IT DOES IS, IS DOES AN
ANTI-AGING EFFECT TO THE FRUIT.
IT DOESN'T ALLOW THE FRUIT TO
MATURE NORMALLY.

Jeyan says AS IT AGES, THE SKIN
OF A FRUIT, JUST LIKE OUR OWN
SKIN, LOSES ITS FIRMNESS AND
BEGINS TO SHRINK AND SHRIVEL.

Jayasankar says THIS SHRINKAGE IS
A CASCADE OF EVENTS THAT HAPPEN
AT A VERY SMALL LEVEL, AT THE
MICROSCOPIC LEVEL. AND BASICALLY
THE CELLS ARE KEPT TIGHT BY A
MEMBRANE, AND THIS MEMBRANE IS
THE ONE THAT COLLAPSES FIRST.
AND THIS HEXANAL STOPS THE
ENZYME THAT TRIGGERS THE
COLLAPSE.

Jeyan says THE TEAM HAS DEVELOPED
A PRESERVATIVE CALLED ENHANCED
FRESHNESS FORMULATION OR EFF FOR
SHORT.
IF SPRAYED IN ITS PURE FORM,
HEXANAL WOULD JUST EVAPORATE,
BUT THE EFF COMBINES SMALL
AMOUNTS OF HEXANAL, ANTIOXIDANTS
AND WATER SO IT CAN EASILY STICK
TO FRUITS. THE SOLUTION CAN BE
SPRAYED ON FRUITS BUT CROPS WITH
A THICKER, WAXY COATING LIKE
BANANAS ARE DIPPED FOR BETTER
EXPOSURE. OTHER MEMBERS OF THE
TEAM HAVE ALSO BEEN STUDYING ITS
EFFECTS OVERSEAS.
THE TEAM HAS BEEN TO COUNTRIES
IN THE CARIBBEAN LIKE TRINIDAD
AND TOBAGO AND AS FAR EAST AS
KENYA AND TANZANIA AS WELL AS
INDIA AND SRI LANKA.

In animation, a spinning globe shows the locations of Trinidad and Tobago, Tanzania, Kenya, India, and Sri Lanka.

Jeyan says SOME FARMERS IN THESE DEVELOPING
COUNTRIES CAN LOSE UP TO HALF OF
THEIR CROP AFTER HARVEST, MUCH
OF IT SPOILS BEFORE IT GETS TO
MARKET.

Jayasankar says WHETHER IT IS
A DEVELOPED COUNTRY OR A
DEVELOPING COUNTRY, WE LOSE
ALMOST 40 percent OF THE PRODUCT,
AND 40 percent IS HUGE.
JUST TO GIVE ONE EXAMPLE, IN
INDIA, IN MANGO ALONE, THE LOSS
TRANSLATES TO ABOUT 1 BILLION US DOLLARS.
EVEN IF WE CAPTURE... 25 percent OF
THAT 1 BILLION, THAT IS 250
MILLION, AND SEVERAL OF THESE
COUNTRIES IN AFRICA AND ASIA CAN
RUN THEIR NATIONAL BUDGET WITH
THAT KIND OF MONEY. AND THIS
IS ONE CROP IN ONE COUNTRY.

Jeyan says THOUGH THE RESULTS
WERE POSITIVE HERE IN ONTARIO,
THE USE OF HEXANAL WAS MET WITH
SKEPTICISM OVERSEAS, EVEN THOUGH
IT HAS BEEN SHOWN AS A NATURAL
WAY TO EXTEND THE LIFE OF FRUIT.

Jayasankar says ONE THING AS
A SCIENTIST, IS THAT WE DO THE
RESEARCH IN OUR OWN CONFINES,
AND WHEN YOU GO OUT AND
PRESENT IT TO GROWERS, THEY TAKE
IT WITH A GRAIN OF SALT.
THEY SAY, YEAH, IT WORKED FOR
YOU. WILL IT WORK FOR ME IN MY
CONDITIONS?

Jeyan says THE TEAM WORKED
CLOSELY WITH FARMERS IN SOUTHERN
INDIA AND SHOWED THEM HOW TO DIP
BANANAS INTO HEXANAL.

Jayasankar says IN CERTAIN
VARIETIES OF BANANAS, THE NORMAL
TIME TAKEN FROM HARVEST TO REACH
THE SHELF IS ABOUT 12 TO 15
DAYS. WITH THE HEXANAL, WE CAN
EXTEND IT 25 TO 30 DAYS, SO
THAT'S A HUGE ADVANTAGE FOR THE
GROWER, AS WELL AS THE SHIPPER
AND EVEN THE CONSUMER.

Jeyan says IN SOME CASES
RESEARCHERS SAY HEXANAL BENEFITS
THE ENTIRE PLANT.
TREES SPRAYED WITH HEXANAL HAVE
HAD GREENER LEAVES AND THICKER
CANOPIES.
SPRAY TREES ARE ALSO LESS
SUSCEPTIBLE TO DISEASES AND
PESTS.
ON TOP OF REDUCING WASTE,
SUBRAMANIAN SAYS FARMERS,
PARTICULARLY THOSE ON A SMALLER
SCALE WILL BENEFIT ECONOMICALLY.
FARMERS WILL HAVE MORE TIME TO
MARKET THEIR PRODUCE, WHICH
GIVES THEM BARGAINING POWER
THEY'VE NEVER HAD BEFORE.

Jayasankar says IN COUNTRIES IN
ASIA OR AFRICA, MOST OF THE
FARMS ARE WAY AWAY FROM THE MAIN
ROADS, THE ROADS THAT CONNECT
THE MAIN MARKETS AND THE CITIES.
SO WHAT HAPPENS IS THAT THIS
FARMER... THESE ARE MAINLY SMALL
FARMERS WHO OWN LESS THAN AN
ACRE OF MANGO OR BANANA, AND
WHEN THEY GROW THE FRUIT,
USUALLY THE MIDDLEMEN ARE THE
ONES WHO COME AND DICTATE THE
PRICE.
IT WOULD BE A BETTER PRICE IN
THE MARKET, BUT WHATEVER THE
MIDDLEMAN SAYS, THE GROWER HAS
NO OPTION OTHER THAN STICKING TO
THAT.

Jeyan says SUBRAMANIAN SAYS HEXANAL IS AFFORDABLE AND
DOESN'T REQUIRE SPECIAL
MACHINERY TO APPLY.
HE AND HIS COLLEAGUES HAVE BEEN
WORKING ON THIS SOLUTION FOR TWO
DECADES AND HAVE BIGGER PLANS.

Jayasankar says SO THE EVENTUAL
GOAL HERE IS TO INCREASE THE
FOOD, NUTRITIONAL AND ECONOMIC
SECURITY OF THE WORLD BY USING
THIS TECHNOLOGY.
THIS IS JUST ONE AMBITIOUS
THING, I KNOW, BUT WE ARE ON THE
RIGHT DIRECTION AS FAR AS WE ARE
CONCERNED.

(music plays)

The end credits roll.

Ontario Hubs Field Producer, Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO.

Editor, David Erwin.

A slate appears with the caption "Ontario Hubs are made possible by: The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: The Hexanal Project