The grapest idea since sliced bread

The global financial crisis has not dampened the excitement for the owners of Z Mills, whose newly available technology is set to take manufacturing by storm.

The future is looking bright for the processing mill, following the commissioning of an innovative, new technology – a milling system that can process what was once considered waste or by-product from primary food production, supplying high quality, nutritious flours, fibres and powders.

A passion for sustainable products, as well as experimentation with innovative new technology, and identification of niche markets, has proved to be the essential ingredients for the Queensland company.

According to the company, the Z Mill is at the peak of niche food milling technology in the world today as no comparable milling systems offer the advantages of the Z Mill.

The ‘Z’ in Z Mills refers to the zero loss of nutrients from products processed. The patented process minimises friction and heat, and therefore eliminates the degenerating factors of other food mills.

The mill operates at between 4°C and 10°C. This is critical for retaining essential oils, proteins, vitamins, enzymes and minerals. In comparison, during conventional milling, the temperature might be as high as 70°C.

The crushing technology, originally developed by another Queensland company ten years ago for application in the coal waste industry, was adapted by Cool Tech Milling. “We’ve adapted that technology and added our own applications for use in the food industry, altering the anaerobic atmosphere and the thermo-protected atmosphere,” explained Z Mills CEO, Thomas Cunliffe.

“The technology has only just become available for the food industry. We completed commissioning it in December 2008, and commercial products are becoming available as of now.”

In January this year, the team at Cool Tech Milling, based in Stapylton, commenced milling of dried grape marc, chia seed meal, hempseed meal, grains and other dried raw foods to flours or powders for the world’s growing demand for functional foods. Manufacturers in North America and Europe have already expressed interest in using these novel ingredients.

“We’re not replacing conventional flour products. Instead we’re adding to the potential for food products that can be developed. Essentially we’re creating a whole new range of ingredients that were previously unavailable for use in food production and food manufacturing,” he explained.

Despite the global economic downturn, organic food sales continue to increase, and products processed by Cool Tech Milling meet these expectations.

The first application that the company is focusing on is taking the bi-product of the grape and wine industries – a very nutritious product, full of anti-oxidants, and essential fats, proteins, and iron.

“Basically, the skin and the seed, which is currently being dumped into worm farms, or being used for compost, is actually highly nutritious. What this mill is able to do is to process that product into a flour.”

This is the company’s first example of a bi-product that has traditionally been unusable, although being highly nutritional, that can now be processed into a food product, or food ingredient, for use in therapeutic goods, conventional baked goods, cooked foods and a variety of other applications.

Response to the technology has been extremely positive, according to Cunliffe. “Farmers are very excited about additional options for their produce, and particularly the organic farmers, who are rather particular about the quality and nutritional value of the food that they’re producing.

“At the same time, food manufacturers and therapeutic goods manufacturers can see strong potential for a new range of products that are functional and effective.”

The grape flour and powders, being sold as a raw product, are now also being developed into new recipes for products such as protein mixes and powder mixes, to be mixed into drinks; as well as pastas and therapeutic goods, such as antioxidant tablets.

Cool Tech Milling was accepted by the Australian Small Securities Investments Board (ASSOB) last month, to publicly raise capital to develop new products for export, and shareholders are excited about the potential of this new technology.

There are literally thousands of tonnes of bi-products (from fruits, vegetables, berries, grains, and seeds) that are currently being discarded, which the Z Mill can process, while retaining and enhancing their nutritional value.

Traditional milling systems, reaching high temperatures, can deplete up to 80% of vitamins and minerals, for which it is then necessary to fortify with particular nutrients.

The capacity to mill 1.5 tonne per hour makes the Z Mill one of the largest organically certified mills in Australia, and the only known proprietary anaerobic mill in the world today, giving local farmers and manufacturers a strong advantage over their competitors in producing value-added products that others may not.

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