Grower adds dehydrating op to help expand product line, reduce waste

I am not averse to trying new foodstuffs, products, recipes. One thing I make a habit of doing, though, is paying close attention to product recipe ingredients. One product I tried recently fits the snack profile: This is definitely not “junk food.” Its main component: peas, fashioned into a tasty morsel; a “puff,” if you like. Crunchy: yet, airy. And, the best part?! It’s organically produced.

I bring this up because while this is another food item for munching, it could very well be that if not converted into this particular or similar form for purchase and consumption, such may have gone into the waste stream. Though, it’s hard to know for sure.

Which is the main point of this thread and, that is: keep, as much as possible, the food grown and made available, out of the refuse pile, therefore lessening the likelihood of it ending up in the landfill, part of that inevitably winding up becoming methane gas and released into the air.

In “Company launches effort to attack food waste,”1 Vegetable Growers News correspondent Kathy Gibbons opens the article by getting right to the point.

She observes, “Problem: A downturn in the economy helps shine a light on the need for diversification.

“Problem: Too much fresh produce gets left to rot in the fields where it’s grown.

“Solution: For The Woerner Companies, based in Alabama and operating farms there and in Florida, Louisiana, Colorado and Hawaii, start a fruit and vegetable drying processing arm.”

Gibbons cites Woerner Companies Chief Executive Officer and President George Woerner, who said, “‘We decided we were going to narrow in on what crops are in overabundance and where there’s a waste factor, and saw that there’s a stream of produce all over the Southeast that is being discarded.’”

Think ‘dehydration’

One arm of the company is the Bon Secour Valley Ingredients whose 40,000-square-foot plant is expected to be up and running in Foley, Alabama in December, according to Gibbons.

Mike Murphy, Bon Secour Valley Ingredients general manager adds that chicory, which Woerner grows, when processed into flour and switching it in and regular flour out for baking in certain cases, “makes for a healthier product. Chicory root contains inulin, said to provide multiple health benefits,” Gibbons explained.

And added: “They’ll also be dehydrating kale – all of the commodities sourced from their own farms, as well as others as needed and product is available.”

Murphy, providing further comment, remarks: “‘We have a carrot producer over in Georgia that processes carrots and is dumping over 150,000 pounds a day, a part of the carrot, which we can use to produce powders,’ Murphy said. ‘We see recovering these types of things and adding value to them as a way we can go to market and make money for our company.’”

At the operation, according to the Vegetable Growers News correspondent, a pair of dryers, by the way integral to process success, is what Bon Secour Valley Ingredients operates with. On the one hand, there is an “internal rotary drum dryer for dehydrating in bulk volume for small particulates and specific powder sizes, which can be used in baby foods, cereals, smoothie mixes and other recipes.” And on the other, there’s “a tray dryer that will be used for specialty cuts like disks or french fry slices.”

Gibbons brings to bear that for those growers who can, the potential exists for farms to get into the processing side, in essence, giving voice to Woerner, who then elaborates in his own words, that:

“There’s an opportunity to turn a waste stream into a higher-value product that could (turn out to) be even more high value than your number one product,’ he said. ‘Everywhere I go and talk fruits and vegetables, every one of them has a huge waste stream that is being lost.”

Notes

  1. Kathy Gibbons, “Company launches effort to attack food waste,” Vegetable Growers News, March 2017, p. 9

Image at bottom: Stephen Ausmus, U.S.D.A. Agricultural Research Service

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