Monday, 19 November 2018


The McCain Foods plant in Washdyke, Timaru, New Zealand, recently started a pilot program led by Otago University, looking into waste reduction and energy saving.

The plant has commissioned an Elea PEF unit, which uses a brief electric pulse to modify and disrupt the membranes of cells in plant.

The program is part of the Ministry for Business and Innovation funded Food Industry Enabling Technology (FIET) program worth almost USD16.8m, is being trialed at McCain Foods in Washdyke, in what has been described as “electrocuting potatoes”.

McCain Australia/New Zealand director John Jackson said the Washdyke plant was looking to invest USD2m in the technology. The Washdyke operation employed about 130 people and processed 150,000 tons of potatoes annually, according to Elea Technology.

The PEF processing affects the cell membrane so it could be used to enhance the extraction of pigments or bioactive compounds from potatoes, increasing their yield and quality or to kill micro-organisms as an alternative to the pasteurization process.

Jackson said the process was also promising in terms of combating Tomato-Potato Psyllid, which spreads disease in potatoes.   

Otago University researchers are leading the pilot trial on potato processing – with initial research showing promising results for minimizing waste through having fewer broken chips during processing

The aim is to produce healthier fries as the potatoes absorb less oil during the cooking process after undergoing the PEF treatment. The electric field being pulsed through uncut potatoes during processing alters their microstructure, which results in a more controlled release of sugar, more uniform coloration and reduced oil uptake, ELEA explains. 

Related articles: 

Elea Pulsed Electric Field Technology Launches SmoothCut One system 

Heat and Control Partners with ScandiNova for PEF Technology 

Pulsemaster Launches PEF Unit for French Fries and Chips

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