Treasure8's first deployment of the SAUNA technology has been in the healthy snacks market, where it has been used to create novel 'delicate' fruit & veggie chips “that crunch like a potato chip, without oil," says co-founder Timothy Childs, who founded chocolate brand TCHO.
However, the next big opportunity is in hemp-derived CBD, reckons Childs, who was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after launching a subsidiary called HEMP8, which has begun operations in Watsonville, CA.
SAUNA machines can dry hemp within 60 minutes vs the standard 5-12 days for air drying, capturing 2% more CBD and killing off harmful microbes and mold, he claimed.
"Regular drying does not do this as hemp is typically dried without heat, simply using the air. There are some additional treatments currently in use such as hydrogen peroxide spraying and UV rays, but these again, take more time and additional cost, while our process can do it all at once and much faster. In fact, the SAUNA process has a proven LOG4+ kill-step and removes 99.9% of mold and other microbial material."
'HEMP8’s gentler and energy-efficient process provides clear advantages'
Hemp has typically been hung in environmentally controlled barns or other large buildings, where it is air-dried over several days, said Childs. "The problem is that often there is not enough space given the harvest time constraints, leaving millions of pounds of hemp to rot, a huge economic and environmental loss, which of course is where the advantage of HEMP8’s more rapid way to dry it comes into play.
"In other cases, big rotary or cyclone dryers are used, which can handle large quantities of hemp but they destroy a percentage of hemp’s CBD and terpenes, thus destroying the most valuable parts of the plant. These systems also use a lot of energy to run.
Compared to those, HEMP8’s gentler and energy-efficient process provides clear advantages, he claimed. "By providing dehydration services for our partners producing millions of pounds of hemp, this means additional millions of dollars in revenue. So the advantages of quicker drying not only allows growers to process more hemp during harvest than they would normally have capacity for, but to make more returns as a result."
HEMP8 unveils bid to be 'the premier hemp dryer and post-CBD extraction waste stream processor in North America'
“HEMP8’s goal is to become the premier hemp dryer and post-CBD extraction waste stream processor in North America,” says the company, which is based in Treasure Island, San Francisco (hence the name).
“While many parts of the country have seen an influx of hemp crops the last few years as CBD has grown in popularity, drying capacity remains a huge issue. Many growers have been forced to leave millions of pounds (and billions of revenue) of the newly legalized plant to rot in the field--not only an economic and food loss, but a drain to the environment, too.”
The DaaS [drying as a service] business model
Asked about the business model, Childs explained: "We supply and operate the SAUNA machines at our cost, and charge the producer a per pound fee for the drying service.
"They don’t have to take on either of the capex and operations burden in dehydration and simply pay a per pound fee for the service. Our win-win DaaS TM [drying as a service] model allows our customers to focus on their key strengths while we focus on ours."
“We started looking at dehydration technology co-invented by our food waste mentor Ed Hirshberg and the USDA, which the USDA had filed a patent around some years ago, that has since been granted and covers a pretty wide range of other drying modalities. We test drove it, thought it was amazing, dropped all of our consulting projects, and have spent the last two and half years commercializing it.
“We have the exclusive license for the patent and the rights to produce the machines and the products thereof, and we’ve since filed additional patents with the USDA to create additional cover around this.”
Treasure8 co-founder Timothy Childs Read more HERE.
Series A financing round
The company is now seeking to raise $5m+ in a Series A round to allow HEMP8 to expand its dryer capacity and inventory to meet growing demand and fulfil its current orderbook, said the firm.
Consistent with its mission of tackling food waste, Treasure8 is also attempting to address the fact that, "Even after processing hemp for extraction of highly valuable products like CBD oil, most of the remaining biomass still end up unused and is sent to land fill, even if it is full of other valuable ingredients like protein, fiber, and others.
"This, in turn, contributes to the significant GHG problem the world faces and leaves money on the table for growers, processors, and the industry at large.
Valorizing low cost waste streams
Childs explained: "The vast majority of the millions and millions of pounds of waste stream material that remains following the CBD extraction process from hemp - usually for Co2 supercritical extraction - is generally simply trucked to landfill. At best, it may be converted into animal feed. Both of these options are far from the best use of the material which is full of fantastic proteins and nutrients that are edible for human consumption. This is where we come in.
"By valorizing these relatively low-cost waste streams into more valuable sources such as proteins, fibers, and biofuels, we are demonstrating a truly circular and regenerative approach to what is truly a valuable crop, and also illustrating Treasure8’s regenerative recovery mode and abilities as part of our overall mission to push forward a Resource Revolution across various verticals.
“This will be funded with a newly opened Series A, as well as a recently closed Friends & Family round, and an additional portion of a $5.8m Series B convertible note to Treasure8, provided by the Tuaropaki Trust, Treasure8’s main investor."
He added: "And while we have initially begun in California, we are also about to start another operation in Wisconsin, followed by others across the country as more funding comes in."