Dehydrating Food with Geothermal Energy for Zero Waste

Geo Food

2. Zero Hunger 5. Gender Equality 7. Affordable and Clean Energy 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 13. Climate Action

Overview

A dehydrator that works with renewable geothermal energy.

A new business model that provides a green alternative to reducing food waste by increasing food life span using the process of dehydration.

This innovation provides quality jobs in villages with access to geothermal energy with a sustainable environmentally friendly process.

Author

Diego Alberto Sanchez Tello

Diego Alberto Sanchez Tello

School

EGADE Business School Tecnologico de Monterrey

EGADE Business School Tecnologico de Monterrey

Professor

Alejandro Rios

Alejandro Rios

Innovation

According to World Bank’s statistics, there are about 20.4 million tons of food wasted annually just in México; to add to this, hunger is also one of today’s biggest problems both in the country and the world in general. Food resellers have been buying fruit and vegetables from local farmers offering unfair prices, contributing to the stagnation of local economies.

With this in mind, experts from Grupo iiDEA while operating a geothermal energy generation plant in San Pedro Lagunillas, Nayarit, in Mexico, tried to find a way to help farmers and citizens by creating a project with social impact. By using the temperature of the water vapor after the process of electricity generation, they found that they could dry air using a heat exchanger that could dehydrate food during a process that chills the water vapor before returning it to the ground. This innovation is called DGA (Deshidratador Geotérmico de Alimentos) which in Spanish is the acronym for "Geothermal food dehydrator" and the project in general was called Geo Food.

To provide some background, today’s most common process for food dehydration involves the use of gas to produce the energy & heat necessary for products to release their humidity; this process generates harmful emissions to the environment. With Geo Food's new geothermal dehydrator this kind of environmentally damaging emissions can be avoided and still get high quality results to produce a sustainable process for food dehydration.

"Geo Food helps provide locals with quality jobs aimed to empower women and provide gender equality. By using this innovation, Geo Food helps the community and society in general by tackling two of its biggest problems, hunger and food wastage, with an environmentally friendly alternative that at the same time provides new jobs and opportunities to the villages, empowers women and helps local farmers to obtain fair trade."

Dehydrating Food with Geothermal Energy for Zero Waste

Inspiration

In Eduardo Perez’s own words: “If we go back a little or at the beginning of the value chain, as I mentioned, food waste is a big problem in our country and what has caused it? The fact that producers are often subject to the prices of intermediaries that we commonly know as “coyotes” There are times that there is no profit for the farmers with what they are offered for their product and it is more profitable to let the product to go to waste and wait for the next harvest. In this sense, the social impact of the dehydration process is directly related to the producers who are given another opportunity to market their product.”

Geo Food was born in UNAM’s (National University of Mexico) Institute of Engineering as a way to apply their knowledge about different kinds of energy into a beneficial solution towards today's problems and challenges. As Eduardo Perez told us during the interview, “The initial objective was to generate technology that could help us harness and benefit from geothermal energy”.

They decided to bring this technology to local farmers as an alternative for preserving food through the process of dehydration, thus reducing food waste while jump starting the local economy with a simple sustainable business model.

Overall impact

Geo Food could provoke the disruption of the entire food industry because it stands at the intersection between technology, renewable energy and food dehydration. Because the geothermal energy technology has different applications, some businesses can start using it and therefore reduce the emission of CO2.

Some of the examples of short term effects of the innovation have been:

(i) jobs for women and people who might otherwise migrate

(ii) use of renewable energy resources

(iii) reduction of food waste by extending food life span

(iv) development of Mexican technology and talent

(v) reduction of the CO2 footprint

Long term effects of the innovation:

(i) fight against climate change, reduction of CO2 emission and diminishing pollution

(ii) reduction of energy costs

(iii) creation of new geothermal plants

(iv) economic growth of the community.

Mexico is a country with several potential geothermal sources of energy. This indicates that Geo Food could expand to other places, therefore providing more jobs, producing more food, like dehydrated pineapple, reducing waste and tackling migration. Then there is a “domino effect” because more money, less pollution and more jobs means higher economic growth, less damage to the environment and better quality of life. Sustainability projects produce long-term growth, driving all sorts of positive benefits to people and the environment.

Business benefit

Because the business based its innovation on the dehydration of food with geothermal energy in a poor community of Mexico and with the help of expert engineers, we can summarize the benefits of the innovation as follows:

(1) 100% Mexican patents

(2) Energy availability 24/7

(3) 100% renewable energy

(4) Generation of new jobs / reduction of migration

(5) Direct purchase to farmers

(6) Reduction of food waste

(7) Responsible use of water resources

(8) No combustible burning / no greenhouse gas emissions

(9) Jobs for women / more female labour opportunities

(10) 30% cost reduction dehydrating with this method.

There are many benefits, but it is important to consider the implications for the environment and society because Geo Food is a company established to change the situation in Mexico. Initiatives like this protect the planet by preserving the environment and maybe could drive more companies to imitate their business model, to be profitable by being sustainable.

Quoting Geo Food's CEO: “…I can imagine a large consortium of multiple companies that can participate in all of these activities. Right now, I have said several ideas in which you can take advantage of this resource. But that is how I see Geo Food and the growth of these technologies from here to 10 years, to have not only dehydrators but a value chain in which institutions, companies and even the community can adhere. So they can create a society in which they get organized and say “I want to participate in this activity” and that at the end of the day we have a 100% Mexican product, not only looking to the local market but with a view to export…”

Social and environmental benefit

This innovation has many benefits for both society and environment.

Benefits for society:

Geo Food contributes to the lives of the communities where it exists, having a meaningful impact by providing jobs, reducing migration, empowering women and achieving gender income equality. Since people have quality jobs and better income, their families have a better quality of life and parents can provide better healthcare and education for their children.

The community in Nayarit is a mostly rural, non-industrial region, so providing a state-of-the-art geothermal energy generator with a food dehydrator results in increasing the economic flow in the region and permits the contact of the locals with development opportunities.

Benefits for the environment:

Less pollution because this kind of energy is an alternative to the traditional gas dehydrators. As Geo Food does not need fossil fuels or coal to operate, there are no greenhouse effect gases and this helps to prevent climate change.

Interview

Eduardo Perez Gonzalez, CEO

Photo of interviewee

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Geo Food

Geo Food

San Pedro Lagunillas, Nayarit, MX

Business Website: https://geofood.mx/

Year Founded: 2012

Number of Employees: 51 to 200

A food dehydrating process with special equipment designed to harness the heating energy from natural geothermal energy.

This project suggests a sustainable business model for food preservation that helps nearby villages and farmers to create wealth, prosperity and fight food waste and hunger.