New technology uses typically discarded produce to cut waste
Making tomato soup or pumpkin puree? Why not throw in the whole vegetable and have no waste?
The most nutritious part of a vegetable or fruit is often what gets discarded before processing. But what if you could use the discards in the product and send nothing to the POTW? No more tomato skins, apple cores and peels, orange rinds and seeds, squash seeds/pulp—and the list goes on—to waste collection/processing. Good nutrition and good for the planet.
Ten years ago, cofounders of Cape Town, South Africa-based Green Cell Technologies, Roy Henderson (CEO) and Jan Vlok (research and development director), set about to design a food processing machine that ostensibly could use every part of a vegetable or fruit—or indeed, any organic plant material—in the making of a purée, juice, emulsion or extract, creating less wastage and increasing food security for peoples of the world where crops were already in short supply. What the two South Africans found was that such a machine needed Space-Age materials to make it work, and once they were able to create a working unit, what it could do surprised even them.
The machine, called the Disruptor, uses what the pair terms “Dynamic Cellular Disruption” (DCD) technology to provide food manufacturers with a compact and cost-saving way to process their food more expediently, reduce waste and improve nutritional quality. The machine can deal with any product that’s flowable—wet or semi-dry (1 to 100,000 centipoise)—and can break the product down to a molecular level—with the insoluble fiber being sub-150 microns. To do this, the device requires some high-tech materials—seals that can withstand pressures to 900,000 psi and a new metal alloy that tops all other materials on the Rockwell hardness scale.
Without using harmful heat or chemicals, the process uses whole foods and plants to generate “stabilized” nutrient-rich emulsions that can be used in soups, convenience foods, juices, baby foods, sauces and more. These same emulsions can also be dried into powders without using sugar as a carrier. The DCD technology is “revolutionary” in as much as it can remove the plant cell membrane, releasing 99.99998 percent of the “actives” inside and converting all the fiber into a flowable liquid, without denaturing the source material.
FE interviewed Henderson to get some particulars on this process.
FE: How long has this been in development, and who worked with you?
Roy Henderson: We started in late 2008 and completed the R&D with regard to what we wanted by mid-2010. We then set about the engineering phase, which we completed in 2014, beta-testing the Disruptor until 2015 when we opened our doors for commercial opportunities. We did the work by ourselves, and when we needed specialist input, we would compartmentalize the requirement and engage with that specialist to solve a specific problem, which we then incorporated into the final Disruptor machine.
Early on, we realized that what we were creating was going to go far beyond the norm and needed safeguarding. Finding the right people to work with was a process far more complicated than we ever anticipated. However, we finally found the right partners—spread across the country, but all with international footprints, so we can easily scale and replicate where and when we need.
FE: What were the theories behind this invention?
Henderson: Given my previous career in military diving, the invention was based on Boyle’s law and Charles’ law. However, the business principle was to find a way to feed more people with better food at a more reasonable price—and that could healthily sustain them.
FE: What were the roadblocks in developing this machine?
Henderson: The engineering phase presented some real challenges. Our first attempt was a bolted-together piece of equipment, which we called Frankenstein. That worked and took us only a few weeks to achieve, but the running costs were prohibitive—and so, then began the part-by-part improvement to deal with the forces we needed to generate. That presented some significant challenges and real roadblocks. One of these was the fact there was no material hard enough to sustain the pressures and forces we required to achieve our desired result, so we had to create one. That took time.
FE: How did you find sources for materials to work at these extreme conditions?
Henderson: Lots of research and never taking no for an answer. Together, we worked out what we needed and set about creating the means to achieve the results.
FE: How does the machine actually work?
Henderson: We have invented a way to accelerate biomass to several hundred kilometers an hour in a very short length, stopping it in a fraction of a second and then forcing it to exit the Disruptor in a very specific way. This achieves three things: All plant cells are broken open, the insoluble fiber is reduced to typically sub-150 microns, and the material is reduced to a log 4 to log 6 micro-reduction.
FE: Besides creating an emulsion, can the machine extract certain constituents? How?
Henderson: The Disruptor cannot extract a specific constituent, but it applies the principle that the more efficient your initial break up is, the easier and more efficient your extraction will be.
Consider that a press or high-shear chopping blade will typically reduce the biomass to about 500 to 3,000 microns. In those clumps, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of whole cells still harboring molecules of interest to the extraction. DCD and Disruptor technology liberates everything and immediately.
From this molecular base, we can fractionate as a client directs—if performing an extraction. Otherwise, the emulsion is used in a variety of applications. However, it’s important to remember that what we produce is highly concentrated—in both flavor and nutrient efficacy. Typically, a food/beverage manufacturer would need a fraction of the Disrupted material for its recipes, as the taste profile is so much enhanced—as too, are the nutrients that are released.
We do, however, produce excellent results in the extraction process. African botanicals harbor several exceptional health-enhancing constituents. For example, let’s take rooibos. This has a high ORAC value. Disrupting the rooibos plants and using ethanol to extract the active ingredient, aspalathin, is greatly enhanced as we extract more, more quickly and for less cost while delivering higher efficacies.
If talking about foodstuffs—take a kilogram of oranges, and the Disruptor processes all [of them]: skin, pips and flesh. We would then add approximately seven liters of water to this emulsion to reach the same liquid consistency attained in traditional pressing methods. The other key difference is that using the Disruptor, we have accessed pretty much all the available nutritional content.
FE: Is there really no waste?
Henderson: It will depend entirely on the manufacturer, but in the main, there is no waste. If the manufacturer/food processor wants to remove the fiber, it can easily be done, as it is already broken down. It can be put back to benefit water retention on land or dried to a fiber source to be used in other products, i.e., the baking industry.
FE: Are there any food/beverage/nutritional companies using this machine and process?
Henderson: Yes, we have one of South Africa’s largest apple producers utilizing the technology. There are also several sauce companies in South Africa using the technology, as well as a baby food manufacturer. Further, we now have dozens of US and EU-based companies that are evaluating the technology, including those in the wine industry.
FE: What are its capacity and throughput per hour?
Henderson: We have four machines, and they range from 1,500 kg/hr. to 6,000 kg/hr., and if more is needed, then one can put them in parallel.
For more information, visit www.greencelltechnologies.com.