Project Case | Nanotechforfood | IXL Netherlands B.V.
Since the work of Joseph Shumpeter in the 1940s on Innovation Process and his most famous idea of Creative Destruction, the concept of Disruptive Innovation has evolved to have at least two key features: product or service definition in a radically different way than previous ones, and a huge impact on society. This is the case in the Nanotechforfood project, which reaches the highest standards in food quality by implementing a breakthrough new cooking technology.
At least from the beginning of the 21st century, several global food trends can be identified, both at the food service level and at the consumer level. In food service, there are increasingly widely used cooking techniques such as sous vide cooking and molecular cooking with liquid nitrogen. Amongst consumers, preferences for slimness and a healthy lifestyle, and increased environmental consciousness are giving rise to a worldwide trend favouring less fat, more fresh foods, and even raw foods.
Despite these new trends and techniques, cooking today relies primarily on frying with fat or oil, cooking on electric or gas burners, baking or roasting in convection ovens, and steam ovens. All these conventional cooking approaches use high temperatures (>100oC), and cook food from the outside in over relatively long periods of time. Conventional high temperature cooking techniques result in nutrient loss, dried food and tough texture, and result in excessive energy usage and atmospheric emissions. Conventional high temperature cooking can even form unhealthy substances that humans then consume.
IXL has pioneered e-Cooking®, which uses precisely controlled electric fields to cook food.
e-Cooking® results in better nutrient retention and juiciness, while cooking food in only a few minutes. Because of its precise cooking control, e-Cooking® prepares food homogeneously, rather than the outsidein approach used by conventional cooking, which results in inconsistency.
Furthermore, e-Cooking® consumes less energy and creates minimal atmospheric emissions, making e-Cooking® a more environmentally sustainable approach than conventional cooking. e-Cooking® is a good example of cross-sector innovation, between the Health and Agro-food sectors.
Pictured on the left is a reference chicken filet after conventional preparation in a frying pan. On the right is a chicken filet prepared with e-Cooking®. e-Cooking® preserves the natural flavor and juiciness of the chicken, and results in less protein breakdown and nutrient loss.
IXL Netherlands B.V. is an innovative Dutch company pioneering e-Cooking® technology and developing the e-Cooker® kitchen appliance. The company’s philosophy is “People, Planet and Prosperity,” which is its driver to create healthier food through more sustainable cooking.
IXL’s proprietary e-Cooking® solution is based on Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) technology, which has been used for processing and preservation in the fresh fruit juice industry, and in pre-processing of potato products. IXL’s innovation is the application of PEF to food cooking.
e-Cooking® intelligently combines electroporation and pulsed ohmic heating in food preparation. The e-Cooker® uses preparation compartments with vertical titanium electrodes on both sides of a plastic chamber. The electrodes are connected to a high voltage pulse generator inside the appliance. Software precisely controls combinations of voltage, wattage, pulse width and frequency and pulse duration, utilizing real time feedback during the cooking process to dynamically control all parameters.
e-Cooking uses low temperatures (50-95°C) and short cook times (few minutes), better preserving nutritional value, as well as the food’s organoleptic properties such as natural flavour, colour, structure and taste. Because heat is developed from within the product instead of from the outside, the food’s natural juiciness is also well preserved.
The unique benefits and features of e-Cooking® were recognized in 2017, when IXL won the Startup Showcase Innovation Award at the Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle. IXL has developed both consumer/professional e-Cooker® prototypes and laboratory systems for scientific food, nutrition and cooking process research.
IXL’s e-Cooker® uses a graphical user interface, enabling the user to customize cooking parameters for different foods and preparations.
IXL’s participation in the ACTTiVAte program has helped its engineering team overcome technical challenges combining titanium material with electrical isolating plastics in the e-Cooker® food preparation chamber. Through collaboration with technical specialists from the Health sector (the German Fraunhofer Institute), IXL invented an innovative combination of materials and layers, and developed a methodology for mass production.
Participation in ACTTiVAte has also helped IXL develop alternative business models and market entry strategies. Together with its partners, IXL is investing in product development, manufacturing, an integrated supply chain
and e-Cooking® recipes, in order to launch e-Cooker® appliances into the market, and reach economics of scale.
e-Cooking® Features Summary
• Homogeneous cooking at low temperatures (50-95°C)
• Fast and convenient
• Conforms to the latest European safety standards
• Potential e-Cooker® features and capabilities:
o Different preparation pan sizes (enabling portion sizes ranging from 100g to 600g)
o Pre-programmed as well as customizable cooking plans/parameters o Internet connectivity for e-Cooking® community interaction and recipe sharing
o Real time data (temperature, time, voltage, current, pulses) dynamically incorporated into cooking process