by Hannah Rouillard
In the middle of a dusty brownfield there is a big, new, red building that sticks out like a red tomato in the bread aisle, Brass City Harvest Food Hub. The new facility is purposefully planted in the south end of Waterbury to make its services and fresh groceries available to local members of the community enduring food insecurity. The global health crisis has made this food hub, and its new technology, especially important for this 2020 growing season.
Executive Director, Sue Pronovost, humbly began this venture with $2000 and thirteen plant beds and now runs the food hub with a small team of volunteers. Grant funding restored and developed this dilapidated lot into the first food hub in the state of Connecticut. Her new state-of-the-art facility has an office in the front and then opens into an industrial-sized kitchen with long, stainless steel prep tables, refrigerators, multiple sink bays, freezers, and a walk-in cooler. Sue is gearing up for a very busy season working with anxious farmers and especially stringent FDA regulations since the worldwide Coronavirus outbreak.
Strike one: Coronavirus hit the United States in early spring quickly drawing businesses to a full stop. Normal avenues the farming community count on for income shut down including, schools, restaurants, farmers’ markets, and floral nurseries. Without the demand of large industries, much of farmers overstocked product spoiled and was thrown out, or crops are plowed under while still in the dirt.
Strike two: Sue’s sanitation procedures begin at the first threshold. My first steps into the food hub were cool and squishy. I looked down to see a blue mat with the same character of a sponge soaked through with SaniDate 15.0; a product that sanitized my shoes on contact to prevent compromising the integrity of the Brass City Harvest Co-op.
Sue participates in all aspects of postharvest food safety for multiple contributing farmers. She doesn’t have time for inconsistent or weak cleaning practices. As a non-profit, she doesn’t have the funds either. She needs effective products with proven results. The Brass City Harvest Food Hub works with BioSafe Systems’ products throughout the facility to ensure proper sanitation of food they process, package, sell, and deliver to the Waterbury community. When processing loads of produce, handwashing is an uneconomical sanitizing technique that’s time-consuming, labor-intensive, and leaves the door open for human error.
In the spring of 2020, to comply with federal food safety regulations, Brass City Harvest Food Hub implemented BioSafe Systems’ new MDS+ Smart Technology to facilitate Sue’s big ideas. This technology was developed to utilize BioSafe Systems’ product line to streamline sanitizing and disinfecting, save time and labor, and ensure consistent sanitizer composition that is measurable and documented. The mobile, stand-alone system operates on a standard 115 VAC electrical outlet using potable grade water to accurately dilute concentrated sanitizer products to USDA-approved levels. The dilute solution is then injected into commercially available produce washing equipment for pre-rinse, wash, and final rinse cycles.
Through an easy-to-use touchscreen interface, the MDS+ Smart Technology can control and log process water flow, sanitizer concentration, pH, and other water quality parameters. Automatic data logging provides time-stamped documentation of sanitizer concentrations contacting the produce, then avails that information for desktop or mobile access.
When Sue’s large warehouse fills up and the food hub is humming, having mobile technology will be an appreciated convenience. While visiting, I saw a batch of tomatoes run through a brush-washer with SaniDate 15.0 and was impressed when in just a few minutes a whole rack of tomatoes emptied onto a receiving table ready for storage, packing, or consumption.
BioSafe Systems is proud of maintaining consistently involved relationships with our clients in the industry and especially Sue Pronovost and her Brass City Harvest Food Hub operation. Not only because of her commitment to sustainable principles in the agricultural sector but also because of her sincere, careful engagement with her community. Her one-woman community garden graduated into a small-scale operation with high hopes for even greater growth down the road, literally. Brass City Harvest has taken responsibility for the property all the way down the city block with expansion plans to include a marketplace, classrooms, and more storage as her community partnerships grow.