You can kill dangerous bacteria in dairy products using pasteurization. You can sanitize fruits and veggies with a chlorine rinse. But what about low-moisture foods like seeds, sprouted grains, nuts and spices? As each new Salmonella scare and E. coli outbreak reminds us, these seemingly innocuous products sometimes harbour unwelcome hitchhikers.
Toronto’s Agri-Neo is taking aim at this problem. The company has developed Neo-Pure, an all-natural, government-approved solution to destroy harmful microbes on low-moisture foods.
Neo-Pure can reduce pathogens like Salmonella by more than 99.999 per cent. The non-toxic solution is applied as an aqueous mist onto food, where it eliminates microbes on the surface and penetrates into cracks, crevices and biofilm. After that, it completely biodegrades, leaving only surface moisture behind. Best of all, it does not affect flavour, texture or nutrient profiles. And because there’s no heat involved, raw products remain raw and seeds can still sprout. “You’re not changing the food at all,” explains Agri-Neo co-founder and COO Rob Wong. “All you’re doing is getting rid of the pathogens and unwanted microbes.”
The company has developed a patent-pending treatment process for Neo-Pure that makes it easy for food companies to integrate it into their existing operations. This high-throughput system can process tonnes of seeds each hour, applying Neo-Pure to ensure that each seed or grain is uniformly covered.
Ultimately, Wong wants to see Neo-Pure become a new global standard for ensuring the safety and quality of low-moisture food. For assistance reaching that ambitious goal, he turned to the experts at Bioenterprise. “They’re definitely a leader in the Canadian space in terms of working with agricultural companies,” Wong says. “They’re laser-focused in this area.”
Agri-Neo used the agri-business accelerator’s connections and expertise to find the talent they needed. Those connections also led Agri-Neo to customers, funders and regulatory professionals. On top of that, Bioenterprise provided a valuable sounding board, says Wong, helping the team think through strategic business decisions.
Since its inception in 2009, Agri-Neo has more than tripled in size and moved to a much larger space in Toronto. They’ve attracted a number of Canadian clients and plan to expand into the U.S. in the near future.
But this visionary startup is thinking even bigger. Wong and his team are now applying their bio-based approach to the farmer’s field, developing a suite of broad-spectrum bio-pesticides that promise to boost yields by targeting crop diseases. And that’s good news for producers and consumers alike.
“The overarching mission of the company is to help safely feed the world,” says Wong.