An ambitious Russian priest hoping to break a world record has rowed more than 11,500 kilometres across the South Pacific Ocean - eating only dehydrated meals from a New Zealand company.
Fedor Konyukhov, 67, an avid extreme adventurer, kicked off his mammoth cross-ocean expedition in Dunedin at the beginning of December and completed the first stage of his three-part solo circumnavigation of the world in Chile last week.
Stage two of the trip is scheduled to kick off later this year, and another in 2020 will see him row from Chile to Albany in Western Australia, then from Australia back to New Zealand.
Combined, Konyukhov will travel 27,000km and aims to become the first person to cross the South Pacific Ocean in a rowing boat.
Konyukhov left Dunedin on December 6. He arrived at Drake Passage in Cape Horn, Chile, last Thursday after 17 months of training leading up to the trip.
He spent 154 days at sea.
About 140 days of those were with no contact from a single person.
Over the past six months Konyukhov has been fuelled by Waikato firm Radix Nutrition's dehydrated meals, similar in concept to army rations, which come to life with water.
Konyukhov, who has in the past reached the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Everest twice, along with an impressive list of other extreme sports achievements, was given 900 of the sachet meals, the equivalent of 120kg of food.
He ate five of the meals each day and had around 70 left at the end of his trip. He lost 7kg in weight during his six months at sea.
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"The earth is shaking, and the smell of the land is just incredible," Konyukhov told Chilean media upon his arrival in South America.
"In the Southern Ocean it is always grey, there is no sun, you don't see red, you don't see green, you don't see yellow and your eyes become tired and it is very depressing. Here on the land you have this variety of colours. This is the paradise. People are searching for paradise but we are living in paradise."
Horotiu-headquartered applied nutrition company Radix was founded by Matt Shead, an ex-international swimmer, and Mike Rudling, a professional cyclist, six years ago in 2013 when they invested in a small freeze-drying machine to preserve the nutrients in foods.
The pair were at a loose end in their careers, and took inspiration from Rudling, who during his time as a cyclist often found his diet go "out the window" when on the road.
A British national, Shead, initially came to New Zealand for a month to have a crack at the business with Rudling and his family, and has never left since.
Radix started out in a temporary factory in Waimauku, Auckland before moving to Waikato three years later. The company now operates from a state-of-the-art 3000sq m freeze-drying factory and has invested close to $5 million since it began.
Ultra-endurance athletes are Radix's largest customer base but the company is looking to move into the medical space to offer meals specifically designed for cancer patients going through chemotherapy, and those with diabetes or recovering from major surgery.
The company sources its meats such as venison, chicken and beef from New Zealand and most of its vegetables from Australia and California.
Dr Carlene Stark, a metabolic biochemist who formerly worked as a research scientist at Massey University, approves the recipes for each meal.
Radix is made up of a team of 25 and is gearing up to increase its export to Australia, with long-term plans to export to the United States and Europe.
Konyukhov's project manager approached Radix following a recommendation by Rannoch Adventure, a British boat manufacturer who designed and built Konyukhov's 9m-long vessel for the trip.
It was through that recommendation that the company supplied him with the meals from its expedition and performance ranges, which contain around 900 calories each.
"Originally those expedition meals were designed for a guy called Dave Williams, a Kiwi guy, who was doing something called the Sea2Summit7 - seven of the highest peaks in the world, and he would start at sea level and basically run seven marathons back to back and then summit the mountains," Shead told the Herald.
"This expedition range was designed exactly for what Fedor needed basically."
Shead said Radix believed Konyukhov was in a good physical state at the end of the trip because of the company's meals.
"There were absolutely no signs of Fedor being malnourished at the end of his 154 days," he said.
"He might even be healthier than when he started."
Radix is now working on orders for the lead up to the Olympics Games in Tokyo beginning in July.
For the last Olympics, New Zealand's rowing team ate Radix meals. The Black Sticks, Rugby Sevens, America's Cup Team New Zealand and Olympic kayaker Mike Dawson have also in the past ate its meals.
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