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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


New Way to Skin a Tomato: Scientist Bags 2008 OARDC Innovator Award for Food-, Work-, Earth-friendly Method

April 18, 2008

WOOSTER, Ohio — Ohio State University’s Sudhir Sastry, developer of a revolutionary one-step commercial method for removing the skins of fruits and vegetables, has received the 2008 Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) Director’s Innovator of the Year Award.


The award, presented each year at OARDC’s Annual Research Conference, honors innovation and entrepreneurship by OARDC scientists, either individually or in teams. Innovations that have or will have a major impact on farm production, business, rural communities, technology, and the health and well-being of people and animals are the focus. Winners receive a plaque, $1,000 and $2,500 for their research project’s operating expense account.

Sastry is a professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. He joined OARDC, the research arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, in 1987.

His new process uses ohmic fields, which heat a subject by passing electricity through it, to clearly lyse and separate the skin from the flesh of a fruit or vegetable — tomatoes, for example. The flesh keeps its quality, while the skin, typically high in nutrients such as lycopene, can still be put to commercial use — in paste and puree products, for instance.

Other skin-separation technologies degrade part of the flesh, produce effluents that need treatment, destroy the skin or do all three.

Sastry’s way furthermore uses far less acid for processing — a 1-percent lye solution instead of the traditional 12 percent to 18 percent — and recycles the acid back into the process.

Now, with help from OARDC’s Food and Agricultural Technology Commercialization and Economic Development Program (ATECH), Sastry is marketing the method for residential, restaurant and industrial uses. Both bench-scale prototypes and a continuous-flow industrial prototype have yielded successful results.

An internationally recognized expert on food-processing and packaging, Sastry has studied ohmic heating’s potential for processing and preserving foods for nearly two decades.

Ohmic heating heats foods directly, eliminating the need for a boiler room or smoke stacks at the processing plant. It heats them much faster than conventional methods and leaves behind a fresher-tasting product.

Sastry previously has developed a reusable package for NASA’s Mars and lunar missions that can serve both for warming foods and for containing and sterilizing wastes before they get jettisoned. He is the co-inventor of Pulsed Electric Field technology, which has been licensed to food processors and earns royalties for the university.

OARDC’s annual conference, held April 17 in Wooster, focused on a theme of “Recasting Our Agbioscience Research Agenda: Integrated Projects.”

Jan Weisenberger, senior associate vice president for research at Ohio State, gave the keynote address.

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Kurt Knebusch
OARDC Director's Office