OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Cornucopia Group: Sustainable dehydration

We enable farmers and food producers to economically turn their waste into the highest quality dehydrated foods in the market!

Photo of Chad Knutsen
64 27

Written by

Sustainable, Smart Food Dehydration:

Cornucopia Group enables the preservation lost food resources by making it easy to capture and process/preserve them economically. We want to increase the GDP of the food supply. The final dehydrated products that result from our safe natural processes are of a much higher nutritional quality than any other dehydrated product we've encountered, at a fraction of the price.

Who We Serve:

We believe that scarcity is a problem rooted in systems and attitude, not technology. Our technology was created for growers, and makers of foods who want to make more with less. By supplementing their existing processing systems with ours, we can enable them to do just that.

How It All Works:

Our licensed proprietary, safe, GMO free, natural, GRAS, (meets all fda/usda regulatory requirements) protein coating acts as a barrier against oxygen and bacteria that would normally degrade food without the application of extreme heat or cold. This enables us to dehydrate by simply preparing the food by machine slicing or other appropriate means, then coating with automated sprayers and conveyors, before loading the treated foods on drying racks in special clean rooms with large fans at either end for airflow. The entire process takes from 12-16 hours depending on the material being dried. The resulting product maintains ALL of its nutritional content as well as superior organoleptic (aroma, taste, color) qualities than competing product due to the non-destructive nature of our process.

In a nutshell, all you need is a room, a fan, ps coating, and some know how. No added heating element, no freezing component. Simplicity. 

Our Backstory:

On almost every front, technology is advancing at a breakneck pace. Food preservation and dehydration, however, remains stuck in the past. Dominated by clunky, inefficient and expensive technologies like Freezers and gas Dryers. It seemed clear to us that there should be a sustainability-focused, efficiency driven methodology that could scale to any size, anywhere. This is why we united as a team, to provide a real answer to this unmet problem. We acquired the rights to PS Coating technology and launched Cornucopia Group in 2015. Our first commercial project: Sweet Potato Magic, launched in September of 2016. Sweet Potato Magic LLC will be dehydrating up to 10 million pounds of Golden Texas Sweet Potatoes for the domestic marketplace.

More RE: our sweet potato project in Texas:
 In this project, we worked out a deal with a collective of organic sweet potato farmers. Individually it may have been difficult for them to implement our processes, but together, they provided enough volume of material to make the project economically feasible for everyone involved (economy of scale is clearly evident).  Between the six of those farmers, they had over 4,000,000 pounds of waste already.  After dehydration that means about 1,000,000 pounds of finished product.  Previously they were spending a few cents per pound to  convert their waste into fertilizer,  however not with us, we are buying it for $.10 a pound, dehydrating it, selling the finished product for almost 3 dollars a pound, and everyone gets a piece of the pie, food is saved, waste into abundance.  I hope that gives some idea of the potential of connecting even smaller scale farmers together as a collaborative effort.

We are currently engaged in discussions regarding large projects with banana peels in South America, fish waste in Alaska, more sweet potatoes in California, and shrimp and tomatoes in the Middle East, and we are just getting started!

We recently presented our food waste technologies at the Open Innovation Marketplace of the 33rd International Association of Science Parks (IASP) Conference in Moscow, Russia on the 19th-23rd of Sept. The reception was amazing, and it is clear that the world is calling for us. Let's feed the world!

We also had the distinct honor of being invited to attend SXSW Eco as an alternate in the Food and Agriculture Startup Showcase, and as a result have drawn in even more poingnant attention from investors and implementers alike. Onward and upward, stay tuned for our global expansion.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We are beyond the pilot testing stage already. Our methods have been in development in high end labs for about 10 years, and we are finally ready to bring it to the world. I have built a small model of the rooms we use to air-dehydrate and have produced outstanding samples of many foodstuffs from Salmon and tilapia, to citrus peels, to discarded coffee cherries, to carrots and sweet potatoes. The process works, and better than any other method of dehydration we have ever seen.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We are in search of implementers who can benefit from what we do (Farmers, food producers, ingredient distributors etc), investors (to facilitate our launching of more of the projects proposed to us projects sooner, of course with great ROI opportunity), and ambassadors to help us spread the word far and wide that we have an answer to food waste, and it works.

Tell us about your work experience:

I graduated film school in 2010, and spent the following few years directing, shooting and editing award winning music videos for A-list artists and up and comers. I then spent over a year living in the deep jungles of Belize building an eco community where I identified and developed some of the technologies Cornucopia Group now employs. My experience is becoming that of an expert generalist, and a sustainability innovator. My goal is to convert Waste into Abundance in every industry.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • An Individual

How far along is your idea?

  • It’s on the ground creating impact – it’s existed for over 1 year

How would you describe this idea to your grandmother?

We make it possible to take the food that farmers and producers lose during and just after production/harvest, and convert it into amazing ingredients and products that can feed the world rather than letting them be wasted. While simultaneously creating a new source of income for those farmers and producers.

[Only for launched ideas] How does your idea differ from what you're already doing?

Currently the world uses gas dryers, freezers, and solar drying to dehydrate its food. These solutions cause damage to the cell structure that results in a significant loss of nutritional content, and organoleptic qualities. Our process however does not cause these negative effects, and as a result the quality is higher, and the cost to producer is lower. Resulting in financial and social motivations to waste less.

How is your idea unique to the space?

Our methods provide solutions to producers and farmers that are otherwise impractical due to the high costs and complication of implementing and using conventional means to dehydrate. Also the resulting dried product is more nutritious (mo measurable loss in nutritional content), it smells better, looks better, rehydrates better and tastes better than conventional dried foods.

Who needs to play a role in your idea in order to make it successful?

We are looking to develop even more strong relationships with farmers, food producers and industry influencers, because they are the people who can benefit from this technology directly. We also are interested in speaking with investors, who can enable our expansion into more projects. Also we hope to work with policy makers to demonstrate that a solution is ready for the food waste issues in their localities, and we are ready to get to work!

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

We will of course be tracking the amount of food we capture, and the amount of revenue we see generated for our customers. Also, we will be measuring the social/media/marketing metrics to gauge our level of consumer/market acceptance/awareness. As time passes, we will be able to compare the "now" numbers, to the "then" numbers and see our impact quite tangibly. We will see our products, out in the world, feeding people and solving problems within the year! also

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

After our recent return from Moscow, we had high level delegate from 21 countries incredibly interested in developing PS coating projects in their regions. As a young company, our travel budget is too small to make it possible to followup with all these amazing prospects. Some more funding will allow us to expand, and to further the development of current projects as well as actively begin pilots around the world! So much food being wasted out there, we want to tackle it. With your help, we can!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Barbous Melina

This kind of playing a role with your idea make me fell great, so i can be very successful at any time. thank you.

View all comments