Harry Butler Institute

Solving biosecurity threats sustainably

The demand for organic solutions to biosecurity problems is growing as the environmental impact of chemicals comes into sharper focus, both in industry and at home.

The Harry Butler Institute is at the forefront of developing those solutions with several new treatments and technologies under patent for industrial biosecurity. In most cases, they are born from corporate partners presenting us with problems to solve.


Areas of research


Technology utilised

Patent Fumigation Technology

Lead researchers

Professor Yonglin Ren


What was the need for this project?

Chevron approached Professor Ren with the challenge of developing a solution for cargo shifted to Barrow Island. This is a high-risk environment that needs careful management of biosecurity and biodiversity, with all containers requiring quarantine and pest eradication.

Any chemical treatment of the cargo was concerning, due to contact pesticides requiring an extensive period of treatment and leaving long term residue. This presents an environmental issue for plants, fauna and water on the island, as well as for work safety.


How the project was completed

In the search for efficacy, environmental safety, and work safety, researchers identified ethyl formate as an effective solution. It’s both a common food additive and naturally occurring substance, which means it’s both safe and environmentally friendly. It’s also very cheap.

Professor Ren’s team also developed a new apparatus to apply ethyl formate to the containers, and also provided a package of resources for the end users, including development of standard operating procedures and a training program to ensure safe operation.


Results and achievements for this project

Professor Ren knew the team needed to develop a fumigant that could address Chevron’s requirements and ensure robust biosecurity and management of invasive species without leaving residues or present occupational health and safety issues.

The ethyl formate solution and application apparatus, along with operating procedures and training to allow work safe compliance, has provided an effective solution. It has also enabled Chevron to secure the permits required for in-transit shipping container fumigation, saving time and money associated with the former stationary fumigation techniques.


Other case studies