What is in this article?:
- Entrepreneurs and agricultural pioneers are eager to find new ways to feed the world’s growing appetite with a scarce water supply.
From left: Henrik Skov Laursen, director of Grundfos Pump Co. and chair of Blue Tech Valley; Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s; and Bill Smittcamp, president and CEO of Wawona Frozen Foods.
It takes more than a few lakes full of water to simply grow what we eat, and another sea-full to process it before we put into our mouths.
So, it’s no surprise that entrepreneurs and agricultural pioneers are eager to find new ways to feed the world’s growing appetite at the same time that scarcity of water and costs for its use are growing.
It explains why many with ties to California’s water industry gathered in Clovis this week for a two day conference with the theme “How Water Efficient Technologies Will Secure Our Future Food Supply.”
The 2nd Annual BlueTech Valley Conference drew more than 30 speakers, including top executives from some of the region’s leading processing operations, including Stuart Woolf, president of Woolf Farming Co., and Bill Smittcamp, president and CEO of Wawona Frozen Foods.
Woolf and Smittcamp, along with other panelists, outlined innovative steps their processing operations have taken to reduce not only the amount of water used, but the amount of effluent discharged into county and city municipal waste systems.
“We’re always trying to conserve water,” Smittcamp said, recounting a research partnership he developed several years ago with former Fresno State University Food Science Professor Gour Choudhury. During a discussion about ways to reduce water use, Choudhury remarked “why not try air?” as a means to peel the skin off the peaches.
His remark marked the beginning of a three-year research effort that resulted in a new, air-based peeling system. According to Smittcamp, the system saves thousands of gallons of water each day during peak processing at Wawona’s Clovis plant.
Now head of the Food Science and Nutrition Department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Choudhury said he is using similar processes to save water use in taking the peel off processing tomatoes “without a drop of water.”
“Next year we will be testing the commercial use of that on tomatoes,” he said.
The conference was sponsored by a consortium of regional water technology businesses and agencies, including Woolf Farming and Processing, Grundfos, Wells Fargo, Fresno State, the City of Clovis and the California Water Alliance. Fresno State’s Water, Energy and Technology Center (WET Center) is one of the consortium founders and also a co-sponsor of the event.
“Our aim was to create a forum for discussion and inspiration on how new technologies can help sustain and grow the food processing industry in the BlueTech Valley,” said Henrik Skov Laursen, planning committee chair and director of Grundfos Pump Co.
The term “BlueTech Valley” was coined by business leaders to represent the central San Joaquin Valley water technology industry in the same way that “Silicon Valley” in the Bay Area became known as the center for the computer and software industry in the United States.