Alumnus Charles Magee, PhD, Secures Patent for Fruits, Vegetables, and Nuts Rehydration System

Charles Magee '70 may have created the invention of a farmer's dream. He has designed an all-in-one system that rehydrates, sanitizes, and provides long-term storage for fruits, vegetables, and other perishable items.

Magee, a native of Prentiss, Miss. and a professor of Biological Systems Engineering at Florida A&M University, spent his early years on a farm in Jeff Davis County, which gave him a preview of agriculture.

His latest invention can give flowers, fruits, vegetables, and nuts new life.

"It is a system and chamber where you can rehydrate wilted vegetables," said Magee. "You can also use the same system to disinfect the vegetables and sanitize the vegetables and use it for long-term storage. Most vegetables only last in the supermarket for 10 days."

The system works by adding water to perishable items.

"The goal is to restore the internal pressure of a perishable product so that it will be nice and firm again. That is the essence of the system."

With the system, fruits, vegetables, and nuts can be preserved for months.

Farmers who manage small or large farms must prove that their product is contamination-free by obtaining certification. The system sanitizes items to ensure they are free of E. coli and salmonella.

"Poor farmers just don't have the technology to do that, but it's coming for them as well," he said. "Once a product has been identified with E. coli, it doesn't matter whether they are a big farmer or a small farmer; they will have to pull them from the market. It will be detrimental for that particular product."

The newly designed system can serve as long-term storage for farmers who may not be able to afford such a facility.

"Small farmers or small producers do not have the facilities for long-term storage," said Magee. "Some may sell at the farmer's market or a roadside stand, and if they don't sell all of their vegetables from that day, especially the leafy vegetables, the vegetables will be wilted, and the farmer will have to throw them away."

"If the farmer can bring the vegetables back home and use this system to rehydrate them, folks won't know the difference, whether they were harvested the same day or five days ago," he said.

His recent patent is just one among eight awarded, while eight others are pending.

An accomplished engineer, he has been recognized as the first to achieve many notable accomplishments, from being the first African American to earn a doctorate in agricultural and biological engineering from Cornell University to the founding director of Florida A&M University's Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) program.

Magee was recently elected as a Senior Member in the 2022 class of the National Academy of Inventors.