Research set to boost avo oil firm

By David Porter

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Brian Armstrong holds a tablespoon of avocado powder equal to a whole avocado. Photo/George Novak
Brian Armstrong holds a tablespoon of avocado powder equal to a whole avocado. Photo/George Novak

Te Puna-based Avocado Oil New Zealand expects to benefit from efforts to upscale the pioneering Waikato Innovation Park spray drying facility that enabled the company to launch a world-first 100 per cent pure commercial avocado powder product last year.

Avopure, which now sells successfully in the US, Japan, China and Australia, has a unique point of difference on the international stage compared to competitors, says Brian Richardson, executive director of Avocado Oil New Zealand, which also produces the Grove brand of avocado oils.

"It is the first premium avocado powder available that contains no added fillers or carriers and contains higher levels of potassium, fibre and energy," said Mr Richardson.

The company had been looking to get into the powdered avocado market, which is used in cosmetic, nutraceutical and health food products, but did not have the resources to invest in its own plant to dry the pulp from blemished or otherwise non-saleable avocados.

When searching for a contract drying plant, they became involved in the Waikato Innovation Park project.

"They take our raw material and put it through their spray drying facility, and we make it into a spray dried powder," said Mr Richardson. "They provide a manufacturing service to us and that gives us a new material we can take to world markets."

Waikato Innovation Park has New Zealand's first and only independent product development spray dryer, which is supported by world-class researchers.

It has now received $28,000 in additional funding from the Bio-Resource Processing Alliance (BPA) to help it develop a way to upscale its commercial production of the avocado powder.

The BPA is a government-funded initiative that helps New Zealand's biological-based manufacturing businesses gain maximum value from waste and by-products, while reducing environmental impacts from primary production and manufacturing activities.

According to BPA general manager Trevor Stuthridge, the initiative has $2.5 million per year on offer to companies and their research providers over the next five years.

"The challenge of how to capture more value from waste in our primary industries is huge," he said. "For example, nearly half of New Zealand kiwifruit are not of sufficient quality for direct export, 20 per cent of harvested trees in New Zealand are left on the ground, and a significant amount of material from mussel harvesting is by-catch that gets thrown away."

The BPA was established to help turn those types of wastes into products with export potential, said Mr Stuthridge.

Four research partners, AgResearch, Callaghan Innovation, Plant & Food Research and Scion, are working with eligible organisations to apply new technologies and product opportunities to waste streams from forestry, marine, agricultural, horticultural, animal and microbiological industries.

The Innovation Park's avocado powder project was being done by its FoodWaikato division.

Now, with support from the four BPA research partners, FoodWaikato would be able to further improve the drying process with the aim of boosting commercial opportunities.

New Zealand Food Innovation Network business development manager Shane Kells said the aim was to increase throughput of the avocado drying process.

"Avocado pulp is extremely fibrous, so the BPA is working with us to find ways to break down the fibre and also decrease the thickness of the raw product. Because the product is so thick, this reduces how quickly we can process it through the drier."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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