SELMA, Calif. – When Dave Biswell started Ethylene Control in 1986, he was working out of the back of his pickup truck with a spare bedroom for an office. He was calling on packinghouse managers to sell a product that few people knew anything about.
Today, Ethylene Control’s gross sales are in the millions annually with some of the largest companies in the world as clients. The once little-known product has long since been validated by extensive university research and proven in the real world of vegetables, tree fruit and flowers. It removes the ethylene gas from the atmosphere in a storage room or shipping container that allows the fruit, vegetables and floral to be held longer without becoming decayed.
“Since 1986, we’ve been blessed with many loyal customers,” said Biswell. “Most all of them are still with us today because they’ve seen the value of the products and services that we provide. In addition, my staff has been a real key element in the success of Ethylene Control. Several employees like sales and office manager Norma Harris has been here since 2000, production manager Dan Deluca have been with ECI since 1996 and Matt Nelsen has been with us since just after ECI began. All of our employees and distributors have played a big part in our success”
Biswell provides patented Power Pellets, filters, sachets and EC-3+ filtration systems to such companies as Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Del Monte, Transfresh Corporation, Costco Wholesale, Inc., Save Mart, Supervalu and many more. That’s a huge jump from his humble beginning, servicing a few kiwi packinghouses in the Central San Joaquin Valley of California.
The workhorse of Biswell’s enterprise is the EC-3+ filtration machine that he initially designed and constructed using a 55-gallon drum. Since then he has designed a prefabricated highly efficient ethylene gas scrubber and has thousands of them in packing facilities, food service, retail distribution centers and cut flower operations scattered around the world.
In the early days, his product storage facility was a small corner in a country pole barn. He paid a friend $25 a month for a place to stack product and cover it with a tarp. A couple years later he rented from the same friend, half a metal building for $75 a month.
Biswell sold Ford trucks by day and processed Ethylene Control sachets and filters by night. He worked out of the old warehouse for eight years until moving into his current 9,000 square foot facility just north of Selma, CA in January of 1994. He soon began manufacturing all of his own sachets, filters and filtration systems.
His first year in business, Biswell reported a profit of almost $2,500; barely enough to buy a fax machine and bag cell phone. For many years he was the only employee, but he now employs seven people, plus distributors in every major fruit and flower growing region of the world.
While Biswell talked about the difficult early years when sales gains were small, the more recent trend has been exceptional. One year his sales increased more than 300 percent. This year sales are over up 84 percent over 2010, “I feel this is because more people are realizing the importance of ethylene removal and that we work hard at keeping the cost to our customers as low as possible with only 2 increases in the last 20 years” said Biswell.
“This has been a real education process for our customers,” said Biswell. “Many of those individuals with the responsibility of quality control for some of the big packing companies and distribution centers didn’t understand what ethylene gas did to their fruits, vegetables and floral products. Some thought that it was just part of the business to have a certain percentage of their product spoil. With the help of university and independent studies they have learned it doesn’t have to be that way. Over the years our products have been proven to kill molds, rots, bacteria and odors. Ethylene removal is now as important as the proper temperature and humidity,” said Biswell.
Customers have the choice of the EC-3+ scrubber; three sizes of sachets and filters used for walk-in boxes and sea containers. “Since I feel customer service is so important we’ve always tried to get a quality product out the door the day a customer places the order,” said Biswell.