Location: Healthy Processed Foods Research
Project Number: 2030-41000-064-02-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: Oct 1, 2012
End Date: Jun 30, 2015
California produces about a million tons of almonds and pistachios annually and is ranked the top commercial producer of tree nuts in the United States. However, for each commodity about 3% production losses result from adverse weather conditions followed by improper drying practices. For almonds, the Almond Board of California has expressed an urgent need to develop a quick drying method to remove moisture caused by rain during harvest season to reduce quality deterioration and improve product safety. Exposure of almonds to wet conditions results in concealed damage, discoloration and unpalatable off-flavor. For pistachios, industrial sorting in water bath before air drying results in significant moisture gain on the nut surface. Quick drying of pistachios is vital to avoid shell staining, decay and microbial contamination. Current hot air drying practices have low energy efficiency and drying rates, high labor and energy inputs and do not guarantee safe products. The goal of this project is to develop a quick drying method that uses IR to partially dry almonds and pistachios followed by hot air drying. The new approach will reduce energy use and drying time and improve product quality and safety. Specific objectives addressed will be the study the drying efficiency and product quality under sequential IR and hot air drying (SIRHA); evaluation of the effectiveness of the new SIRHA heating method to perform simultaneous drying and decontamination of almonds and pistachios, and; quantification of energy saving and benefits of SIRHA heating methods compared to current drying practices.
In Year 1, we will design and modify current IR heating equipment to include new hopper, IR emitters, stirring rods, electric motor, speed controllers, HA drying stage and collecting containers. Also, we will start collecting freshly harvested samples. In Year 2, we will test performance of SIRHA and optimize processing parameters. Test effect of SIRHA on product quality and pathogen inactivation: The product quality, including color, shelf stability, sensory characteristics, and microbial load of dried almonds and pistachios will be determined and compared with those dried with traditional drying methods. In Year 3, we will evaluate the effects of new drying method (SIRHA) on drying characteristics and energy consumption. We will transfer new technology through research presentations at different conferences and workshops; publicize the SIRHA system through the USDA ARS information system; final report of the research project and at least two peer reviewed publications will be available for information dissemination. Industry partners will be identified for promoting and using the new processing technology through close collaboration with the Almond Board of California and California Pistachio Board and processors.