How flowers are 'put to sleep' for long sea voyages

Workers in heavy coats shift boxes of flowers from a cold store into a refrigerated container. Once packed, these blooms will travel hundreds of miles by road in a special 'controlled atmosphere' container from Nairobi to the coast. 

© Jeroen van Loon
Kenya's flower producers are one of the nation's biggest employers

On arrival at Kenya's biggest seaport, Mombasa, the container is loaded onto a ship for a voyage to Europe of around 30 days. Despite their lengthy journey, they will still be sold to European shoppers with a vase life of about a week.

So, how is this possible?
"The flowers will be kept at a temperature of 0.5 degrees celsius throughout the journey," says Elizabeth Kimani, the manager of quality and standards at Sian Flowers.

As well as controlling the temperature, the atmosphere system in the container reduces the oxygen level from 20% to 4% while increasing the carbon dioxide level from 0.4% to 4%.

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