New Technology For New Zealand Growth


Embracing new technology is a key aspect of many New Zealand businesses growth strategies and when Nick Shea, Managing Director of Bucher-Alimentech approached The FoodBowl looking for a site to help do just that it was clear it was going to be a win-win. Not just for The FoodBowl and Bucher-Alimentech but for New Zealand companies looking to new technologies for growth.

Bucher-Alimentech was formed in 1996 as the New Zealand office of Swiss company, Bucher Unipektin AG, which specialises in food and beverage processing technology, and supplies machines globally. One of Bucher’s key technologies is vacuum drying technology, which is a low heat, oxygen-free technology that offers gentler drying than other methods, resulting in quality product.

Bucher-wanted to expand their Vacuum Belt Drying business both in application, and location, especially in the Asia-Pac region. To make this project feasible a local pilot plant needed to be commissioned. Shea explained “The only other pilot plant dryer is at our main R&D facility in Switzerland. Having a pilot plant here in New Zealand allows us to dry products on-the-spot without other problems, such as biosecurity and transport issues, and delay time for client feedback and process refinement.”

While Nick Shea and his team did explore other options including setting up their own facility, it added an extra layer of complexity to an already technically intricate project. “Being a high specification food grade facility, we have not had to worry about any other infrastructure. It has all been managed by The FoodBowl, thus allowing our people to focus on their work on the pilot plant.”

There have been many synergies in the project. Bucher-Alimentech’s prospective clients are enabled by The FoodBowl and the wider NZFIN network in their drying projects. Bucher-Alimentech are now working with an institutional investor, who is currently investigating building a commercial scale Bucher Vacuum Belt Drying toll-processing facility in New Zealand.

The pilot plant at The FoodBowl has been instrumental in this process. It has allowed products to be trialed to find out what works best and to refine the technical parameters. This has given all involved the confidence to progress and eventuating in the sale of one or more of the full-scale machines.

Nick Shea summed up the benefit to New Zealand exports “Apart from the economic benefits of the toll processing build itself, the Bucher-Alimentech facility allows many dried foods to be made at lower cost than using comparable technologies. This means the dried products are more cost-effective in export markets and also that new types of dried products will be more commercially feasible in future. The clients lining up to use the technology are focused almost entirely on export and the project should lead to tens of millions per annum export sales in the next few years”.