Andrey Pechurin, Managing Director of Acoustic Extra Freezing (AEF), describes this innovative freezing technique, and how AEF plans to take the frozen food industry to a whole new level.
AEF is a technology designed for the food industry to make frozen food taste fresh and maintain superior quality.
Traditionally, frozen produce isn’t particularly tasty. When defrosted, there’s often a lot of fluid that seeps from the packaging, and many of the vitamins and nutrients are lost in this fluid. This happens because ice crystals grow unevenly during the freezing process and big crystals damage the food cells. Oxygen penetrates these broken cells during storage and the ice crystals continue to grow.
We’ve found the solution on how to control the growth of ice crystals during the freezing process. As a result, the taste, texture, and nutrients of the original product are left intact.
During the normal freezing process, ice crystals are like sharp needles which damage the cells. With AEF, instead of forming sharp needles, the ice is more like snow powder, which causes no damage to the goods. There’s more of an even distribution of ice crystals. Also, AEF optimizes airflow within the freezing chamber, so freezing time is shortened and quality is maintained.
Shock freezing technology was invented around ninety years ago and hasn’t changed much since then. The idea within the food industry at that time was the quicker the goods were frozen, the better. This isn’t the case, as you can’t overcome the problem of uneven growth of ice crystals. The bigger crystals attract smaller crystals and because of this, particularly during the storage process, damage is done.
There have been a few new freezing technologies over the last twenty years, but none have been particularly suited for an industrial scale.
AEF was launched in Finland in February 2019. It’s a scale-up. We’ve already sold equipment – mainly small freezers – in 25 countries.
For now, we’re targeting food industry companies or corporate clients. Our technology allows food industry companies to introduce new and premium products and sell them at higher prices. For example, desserts with “fresh” berries. Food companies can also buy and freeze ingredients during the one month that they’re in season while supplying their customers the whole year round. In addition, shelf life is extended without loss of quality, which subsequently reduces food waste.
There’s also very low drip loss. There’s two or three times less liquid when defrosting fish or meat than with other freezing methods, which means less storage space is needed. Catering and food delivery companies are also able to deliver produce more easily, with superior quality. Food waste is reduced dramatically as food can be kept frozen for longer periods of time.
For now, our technology is destined for commercial use. We would like to cooperate with the likes of Bosch and Miele, for example, to be able to produce premium freezers for home use but it requires high demand to make it worthwhile. Perhaps this is the future.
We see the future to be very bright. One trend is growing consumption at home. People don't have a lot of time for cooking, so making fresh, delicious meals from produce in Italy, for example, can be enjoyed by someone on the other side of the world from the comfort of their own home.
Another trend involves reducing carbon footprint. It doesn’t make sense to transport fresh fish by plane from New Zealand or Iceland to the States for example. This generates thirty times more carbon than if delivered frozen in a seafood container. With AEF, not only is the carbon footprint reduced, the quality of the fish is equal to that of the fresh fish, and sometimes even better, as it might take several days after fresh fish is caught to bring it to a supermarket far from the shore.
We firmly believe that AEF technology offers the perfect opportunity for society as a whole to reduce its carbon footprint and food waste and for customers to experience great quality food.