Can you give us some history and background on Goji Research and its relationship to the RF/microwave industry?
Goji’s technology was first developed by scientists from Hobart Group (www.hobart-group.com) who specialize in advanced medical device technologies. They were looking for a way to defrost frozen tissue evenly and quickly in a manner which minimizes damage to living cells. The RF power system, which has a specially developed algorithm, showed such promising results that they quickly realized the application could do much more in other industries, such as the food equipment or white goods space. By 2006, Goji Research had been formed as an independent company to develop this breakthrough RF cooking technology, initially focusing on food-related applications. Since then, we have been developing and refining RF cooking technology for commercial and domestic uses.
The microwave oven has not changed much since the first countertop models were developed in the 1960s. How is it being revolutionized today and why?
The technology used by the microwave oven – the magnetron – was initially extremely expensive, which made microwave ovens very expensive appliances. Over time, the industry managed to shrink and lower the cost of magnetrons by several orders of magnitude, and today millions of units are sold each year at very low prices. The industry’s focus on the price of the product led to significant advances on that front; however, the performance of microwave ovens has still not changed much. The reason for this is that the magnetron is very hard to control in a manner that can consistently produce high quality food.
But this is about to change. By using high-power solid-state RF power amplifiers, we can generate high-power RF in a much more controlled manner than we can with the magnetron. Advanced, real-time software can control the phase, frequency and amplitude of the signals that are generated and emitted into a cavity when heating food. Unlike magnetron technology, we use a closed-loop feedback mechanism through which the system senses RF reflections from the food and the cavity, and then uses the data to optimize heating.
This digitalization opens the door for a world of possibilities. Algorithms can be used to create different heating patterns or sense different food states, providing a much better cooking experience. With this technology, we can cook in a fraction of the time necessary when using a conventional oven and improve cooking uniformity, which results in higher quality and healthier food preparation. Furthermore, digital power generation and feedback controls improve the system’s reliability.
What new capabilities will the Internet of Things provide to new microwave ovens being developed with this connectivity?
Since software controls form an integral part of the system, it naturally benefits from internet connectivity. Software updates, new software-enabled features and even dish-specific cooking algorithms can be uploaded through the Internet of Things (IoT). Imagine scanning your food or snapping a photo of it and letting the oven choose the exact cooking recipe through an IoT-enabled machine-learning system. People can also use the system to share their favorite recipes with the world, and of course, in the on-demand age, voice commands can be used to let your oven order your groceries or dictate step-by-step cooking instructions too. The possibilities are endless.
How do you expect solid-state microwave sources to improve the quality and speed of cooking?
Cooking with solid-state power transistors enables precise control of the field patterns generated within the cavity. This allows the best of both worlds. Firstly, food can be heated and cooked quickly, thanks to the rapid energy transfer ability of RF power. Secondly, more uniform heating patterns allow the oven to raise the internal temperature more evenly throughout the food and thereby provide higher cooking quality, with less overcooked hotspots or undercooked cold spots. Furthermore, we observed that by cooking more evenly and rapidly it is possible to retain more nutrients, flavors and moisture in food.
What do you provide in the way of algorithms and software to complement the solid-state hardware?
Software is an inseparable part of a solid-state cooking system. Most importantly, Goji provides dedicated cooking or thawing algorithms which optimize the performance of the hardware from the perspectives of both speed and quality. The real-time control software also ensures that the hardware is operated in a safe manner and continuously monitors the oven’s health.
What new applications or capabilities do you see resulting from these technologies for the food cooking and preparation process?
Consumers have increasingly less time to cook and clean up, yet their expectations of home-cooked food have not diminished. By cooking food more healthily, faster and at a better quality, this technology will meet a growing demand in the market and gain significant traction. There are many applications. Fresh or frozen high-quality meals can be prepared at home or work in the press of a button. Rapid baking and automatically baking real bread from frozen dough will lower the barriers for people to bake at home. Entire family meals, including protein, vegetables and starch, can be prepared in a single, one-button operation. Another application is the fast and safe preparation of healthy, homemade dried snacks. More advanced cooks could explore new cooking recipes and share them with the community. The technology can be used to prepare signature chef dishes and meal subscription foods easily and consistently.
The technology is not constrained to ovens, however. For example, refrigerators will have rapid thaw drawers where frozen meat, poultry or fish can be defrosted in a fraction of the time required conventionally, without the drying and damaging effects of a slow and uneven defrost process.
In restaurants and food service operations, the technology will allow improvements in back-of-house operations through on-demand thawing or rapid, high-quality reheating and cooking of food. It will also enable new applications: imagine ordering a croissant and having it baked freshly for you to fresh patisserie quality, while you pay. The technology can be used in multiple on-demand cooking applications, including fast food, fresh food vending and casual or fine dining restaurants. Eventually, even plane galleys will leverage this technology to make airplane food better.
Will we really be able to put different foods onto a plate and allow them all to cook evenly and finish at the same time?
Yes. For some food combinations, our system already provides excellent multi-component cooking results. For example, the technology allows you to roast a steak perfectly while cooking vegetables and baking a bread roll on the same tray at the same time. We are working on improving the general solution through software controls, more sensors and intelligent cooking scripts. This capability marks the beginning of a revolution. It will probably take a few more product generations to achieve control, in the most general sense, over a wide range of multi-component dishes.
When do you expect these technologies to be widely available in the consumer market?
The first products will reach the market this year. However, we expect mass adoption will take a few more years due to the need to educate the market on the new technology and production scale-up time. The timing coincides with high growth in the smart appliances market. In fact, we believe that many of the ovens utilizing this technology will be smart ovens, combining a number of smart home features, such as internet connectivity, voice activation and artificial intelligence. By connecting to a broader ecosystem, users will be able to exchange new recipes with each other, and food manufacturers will be able to share optimal recipes for their own products and make recommendations based on user activity.
For more information, visit Goji Food Solutions’ website: www.gojifoodsolutions.com