Drying fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms is a preservation method that’s been with us since ancient times. The sun and air, nature’s original drying agents, have served humanity well, making perishables last longer and giving us delicious treats like raisins, sun-dried tomatoes, and dried porcini mushrooms. But while nature’s way is timeless, it’s not without its limitations: the process can be slow, and inconsistent, and sometimes, the dried products lose a bit of their original zest and flavor. But as science probes deeper into nature’s secrets, it uncovers non-thermal technologies like Pulsed Electric Field (PEF), High-Hydrostatic-Pressure (HHP), and ultrasound (US). Despite their potential, there’s limited understanding of how they impact the drying kinetics and the resultant quality of our favorite plant-derived snacks.
The scientists of FOX project integrated these non-thermal techniques with both traditional and contemporary drying methods like microwaves, infrared, or vacuum drying in a mobile drying unit. This mobile drying unit is versatile, efficient and it can operate with or without the PEF pre-treatment, aligning with the user’s specific needs.
Among its many features, this drying unit can handle a wide array of production demands. It’s engineered to handle variable batch sizes, from 25 kg to a substantial 200 kg. Equipped with infrared (IR) and convective drying (CD) functionalities, it accommodates products with disparate moisture gradients and thermal properties. One of its standout features is a rotating sieve, aimed at standardizing product consistency and optimizing drying intervals.
The mobile drying unit design offers a generous 19.2 m2 drying area adequately fitting within a standard container size. Operating within a 0-280 ºC temperature range, its power supply peaks at 55 kW, but for optimal efficiency, a 30-kW usage is recommended. Integrated components like the rotating platform and compact PEF unit accentuate its technologically advanced design, streamlining the drying process. Incorporated utility features such as stainless-steel prep stations, precision slicers, packaging sealers, and electric curtains emphasize both safety and efficiency.
FOX – drying unit. The drying unit including the PEF pre-treatment unit inside the container and all auxiliary devices
In a nutshell, this drying innovation promises not just efficiency but also an elevated quality for our favorite soft fruits, veggies, and mushrooms.