San Francisco Organic + Plant-Based Food Meetup Message Board › investment opportunity (infrared vacuum dehydrator)
Investment Opportunity at Living Light Culinary Institute for Field Trials of Infrared Vacuum Dehydrator
Our development group has built a successful prototype of an infrared vacuum dehydrator, and we are now looking for
intermediate funding for field testing at Living Light International, the premier raw food culinary institute, located in
Fort Bragg, California. Our goal is to generate enough data in their commercial setting such that we can pursue the over $50
million annual worldwide dehydration and drying market. This market is much larger than prepared raw foods, and includes
herbs and spices, fruits (e.g. goji berries), mushrooms, sea veggies, the many seeds and nuts that need lower moisture content before they can be shipped, and a great many non-food materials as well. Our funding has been dependent on the sale of real estate which has now stalled, so we are first courting investors who have an interest in raw foods, and appreciate our methods.
Academic research on infrared vacuum technology has proven the benefits of relatively lower dehydration temperatures: notice the lower temperatures correlate to higher quality-> http://www2.psu.ac.th...
Infrared vacuum technology will also enable a new category of partially dehydrated raw prepared foods, including truly
leavened, gluten-free raw breads, wraps, cakes, etc, from the ability to preserve food using carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas for weeks of extra storage without chemical preservatives. This form of food preservation is finding wider
acceptance, from Fizzy Fruit (carbonated/CO2 laden packaged fruit now on store shelves), to the U.S. Army preserving produce for the troops in the middle east.
It is crucially important that we get a chance to build the next generation of dehydrators to raw food specifications.
Irradiation is becoming cheaper, and also, microwave vacuum dehydration, in testing now, may become financially viable, yet
with the inherent quality problems of microwave technology. But we are confident that we can deliver unparalleled efficiency
and quality based on our innovations, over two years in development, that could secure a leading spot in the marketplace. We can dehydrate, using our prototype, up to four times faster, with greater than twice the energy efficiency, preserve food as
much as three times longer when vacuum and/or CO2/N2 is used for long term storage, and offer substantial improvements in
nutrient retention, than a convection dehydrator like the Excalibur. There is also a huge qualitative improvement in the
dehydrated food, away from "brick"-like textures. The proper blending of medium and far infrared emitters allows us to heat
food gently and evenly, and can kill bacteria and yeast while maintaining nutritional quality. By providing organic farmers
with these capabilities, we could give the raw foods market access to potential discounts in produce, through the sourcing of
"seconds", late/post harvest produce, lug runs, etc. These are important relationships to build, going forward, and we have
started to make connections, including a potential persimmon harvest. Preservation of fruits and vegetables is especially
important to food banks, and we intend to make a huge difference in that area, to help improve nutritional quality and
storage options there.
We are experimenting with semi-permeable trays and warm CO2/aeration for foods like leavened raw bread. Ideally, our
customers will not have to "flip the trays" to achieve consistent drying on both sides of the food. Warm CO2 is desirable for
aeration of many raw prepared foods, which may contain sensitive ingredients like blended flax seeds, whose omega-3s can go rancid much more quickly when exposed to oxygen. Work needs to be done to realize what starter ingredients to use for raw breads and similar prepared raw foods, such as the choice of non-glutenous flour (e.g. quinoa), and what to substitute for
the gluten (e.g. guar gum), and Living Light will be an invaluable partner for this. Also, since water can be boiled at room
temperature in a vacuum, nutritional testing is required to set some new guidelines for raw dehydration in an airless
It is also important to emphasize that the role of dehydration is mostly to preserve food, lower shipping costs, and, to a
lesser extent, satisfy people's desire for the textures that it can recreate. Overconsumption of dried fruits, which are more
acidic and stickier without the water, can be harmful to dental health, and we don't want the kind of dehydrated junk food a
la the movie, Back To The Future. The use of flavor enhancers like kombu (requiring less added salt and spices, and adding
iodine, which is deficient in the diet of some raw foodists), the practice of sizing (grinding seed flour to particular
dimensions depending on the recipe), and the ability to sparingly coat surfaces of raw chips, crackers, cookies, etc., with
the high quality omega-3 fats preferred in raw foods, will ensure that we can make these raw alternatives much healthier than
their junk food counterparts, while better approximating their taste.
The downside to vacuum dehydration is the cost of the chamber and pump. The good news is that used/refurbished chambers and pumps are increasingly available on Ebay (as America's industrial scientific establishment erodes, alas), but even with such discounting, an infrared vacuum dehydrator will likely have to retail close to $1000 for a 14 inch cube. This kind of dehydrator would likely pay for itself in two years for customers who use it daily. For less active commercial customers, we are also looking into cooperating with existing owners of large vacuum equipment who would be amenable to renting their facilities on a short term basis. For the occasional home dehydrator, however, we are planning an experimental centrifugal dehydrator based on a ceiling fan motor and assembly, using our trays and control system. This kind of dehydrator could be cheaper than Excalibur or similar units, and still be much faster to dehydrate, but still quite less than the performance of infrared vacuum. Such a centrifugal dehydrator could also be made to be solar-powered for outdoor use (we are nicknaming it the "Sun Flash"), but due to the liability of building such a large, spinning contraption, it is very unlikely that we, or anyone else would try to market it. Rather, it is something we could publish the plans for, as an open source kit, for which we could sell some trays and a control system.
Our group includes:
Eric Rivkin- raw food instructor and award-winning industrial designer, who has worked on bulk food dispensers
(http://www.freepatent..., Excalibur's laminar flow technology, and many other successful projects (see also, http://www.vivalaraw....)
Dr. Dave Siska- Ph.D in materials science from Northwestern University
Milton Armistead- Living Light Culinary Institute graduate, former raw food chef at Cousins' Incredible Vitality and for his
Vortex Living Foods weekly meal delivery service in Chicago, and worker at Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco
JP Bagdonas, over 10 years of combined process control and computer programming experience, at the UW-Madison's Biochemistry Pilot Plant, Hercules, Inc., International Fragrance and Flavors, and Internet Connect
I should have been more clear in my email with regards to our relationship with Living Light and our plans for a field trial of a commercial scale infrared vacuum dehydrator. Our development group is entirely separate from Living Light. They are not invested in us (or vice versa) but they have graciously agreed to host the testing of our dehydrator when we have raised sufficient capital to fund it (entirely). Our plan is to run many tests on the various foods Living Light may produce with the dehydrator first, before asking for any kind of endorsement from them or moving into the marketplace. We choose to remain a development group as opposed to forming a limited liability corporation or other corporate entity so to give us ourselves more flexibility. Assuming a successful field trial at Living Light, and depending on the wishes of our investors and the terms of any future offer (as we are strictly interested in developing a product that can be used for raw food), we are willing to license, join or work under contract for an existing company that does dehydration/drying. Sorry for any confusion, JP