A Michigan couple is killing foodborne pathogens and extending the shelf life of foods while making their state home to one of the largest high-pressure processing machines in the world. Garden Fresh Gourmet’s founders have the Great Lakes HPP Food Innovation Center officially up and running.

High-pressure pasteurization (HPP) can kill a variety of pathogens in food. The process, which can be applied to food after packaging, also extends shelf life. Co-founders of Garden Fresh Gourmet, Jack and Annette Aronson, opened the center with public tours and demonstrations.

The high-pressure process kills yeasts, bacteria and pathogens such as E.coli, Aronson said.

“Single cell organisms can’t live under the pressure — 87,000 pounds of pressure,” he said. “The 220,000-pound machine is wrapped with 200 miles of cable so it can’t explode, and it doesn’t smash the food because the pressure is equal on all sides.”

Garden Fresh Gourmet did not have access to food technology in Michigan until they were acquired by Campbell Soup Co. in 2015. The Aronsons said they were having to “send out” all of their food to be processed in Wisconsin.

“There was nobody in our state that had the machine,” Jack said.

The Aronsons said they purchased the machine for $8 million dollars from Avure Technologies Inc., a supplier based in Ohio. According to the couple, the machine is capable of processing 70 million pounds of food per year.

This machine is in a 40,000-square-foot facility, but in hopes of expanding, the Aronsons are looking to give Great Lakes HPP space to support more food entrepreneurs.

“If we buy the whole building, we can have more food entrepreneurs come in to manufacture in the building,” Jack Aronson said.

In addition to Garden Fresh Gourmet, the facility currently has contacts with Clean Planet Foods and Drought Juice. Functioning at full force, the facility will employ approximately 50 employees. Aronson said the food innovation center has plans to support Clean Planet Foods, Drought Juice and Garden Fresh’s overflow production.

According to Aronson, “This can extend Drought Juice’s shelf life from three days to 40 days, which can help make them a national brand,” and “they can deliver all over the United States now.”

The Great Lakes HPP center will also offer lab testing for food businesses. The innovation kitchen includes services like product preparation, packaging, and high-pressure processing to test shelf life on site.

The facility was built by Shelby Township-based Sterling Contractors Inc. Designers of Oakland County hubs like the Vinsetta Garage in Berkley and Union Woodshop in Clarkston, the center was designed by Ann Stevenson Catallo and her husband Curt Catallo.

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