Staff — A Toronto company with a “non-thermal” process for pasteurizing dry organic foods such as seeds, nuts and grains has expanded its operations with both public-sector and private-sector backing.
Agri-Neo, over the past three years, has scaled up its marketing activities to expand its customer base and created 10 full-time jobs, investing $1.14 million in backing from members of southern Ontario’s MaRS Angel Network, which was leveraged in part by a repayable contribution of up to $570,000 from FedDev Ontario, the federal economic development agency for southern Ontario.
The federal backing “helped us to grow our company in Ontario, allowing us to now provide innovative food safety solutions to customers across Canada and the U.S.,” Agri-Neo CEO Nick Dillon said Thursday in a FedDev release.
“This support was critical to our company’s success by funding our development and commercialization of Neo-Pure. We envision that this product will set a food safety standard for processors of seeds, grains, and nuts all over the world so they mitigate the risk of food recalls and increase their sales with higher-quality food.”
The Neo-Pure process, which the company launched in mid-2016, is applied on-site at processing plants for raw and dry foods and “eliminates harmful pathogens and unwanted microbes, keeping foods viable for longer periods while retaining their raw, organic qualities.”
The company said the liquid solution used in the Neo-Pure process has been approved as a “processing aid” by Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a designation which allows it to be used in food processing without being labelled on the end product since it’s not present in the finished food.
The Neo-Pure system, as shown above, pasteurizes low-moisture foods at a minimum of three tonnes per hour in a continuous process flow, eliminating pathogens including salmonella, E. coli and listeria, the company said.
The organic liquid solution, “composed entirely of ingredients found in nature,” is misted onto food and “completely biodegrades at the end of the process, leaving the food truly raw” with its characteristics and yield unchanged, the company said.
For one example, the company announced last week it had submitted the Neo-Pure process to the Almond Board of California for TERP (technical expert review panel) review and approval, which is required for any almond pasteurization technology used in the U.S.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has required since 2007 that all U.S.-grown almonds sold in North America must be pasteurized. The Neo-Pure process, if cleared for use, would be “the only TERP-approved, organic, non-thermal pasteurization,” the company said.
If Neo-Pure is approved, Agri-Neo president Rob Wong said in a separate release, “California almond growers and processors will have the option to avoid using heat-based methods that ‘cook’ almonds” or using other chemical treatments such as propylene oxide.
Almonds pasteurized with Neo-Pure would also “retain germination, and thereby be able to sprout,” he added.
Almonds, according to the board, are the second largest crop in California by acreage and the state’s most valuable ag export.