Bendigo man creating edible food blocks from discarded foodstuffs

Food blocks might not sound particularly inviting or edible, but a Bendigo man is trying to change people’s perceptions and, perhaps more importantly, their views on waste.

Fred Coulter stumbled across the idea of dehydrating disused foodstuffs and pressing the finished product into block form a few years ago.  

He began dehydrating oranges for his horse-training son around 10 years ago. 

Dehydrator

Dehydrator

The original plan was to use a presser to create fire logs out of wood scraps, but he soon realised the bountiful supply of discarded fruit and vegetables available from juicing companies and vegetable producers.

“We had no idea the amount of volume of fruit and vegetables that gets thrown away,” Mr Coulter said.

Fruit and vegetables, which carry about 70 per cent moisture, need to be dried so they contain less than 10 per cent water. 

They are then compacted into block form via a presser, giving the foodstuff and extended shelf life. 

“It can’t get mouldy, it can’t get bugs in it, because there’s no moisture,” said Mr Coulter, who works out of a factory in Eaglehawk.

“This stuff will virtually keep forever, it has no sell-by date.”

BUILDING BLOCKS: Bendigo man Fred Coulter uses discarded fruit and vegetables to create food blocks. Picture: DARREN HOWE

BUILDING BLOCKS: Bendigo man Fred Coulter uses discarded fruit and vegetables to create food blocks. Picture: DARREN HOWE

The blocks are edible in raw form, but can be added to water and boiled. 

Once part of the block is added to moisture, it increases in size, increasing the block’s capacity to feed.

The block’s target market is cruise ships, the military and campers, according to Mr Coulter, who hopes the blocks capture the popular imagination and not simply niche markets.

Far from trying to patent the idea, Mr Coulter hopes supermarkets or vegetable producers can develop relationships with future food block producers, to ensure less food is wasted across the state.

“I want to get it going so they can do something with it. I’m going to be 82 in a fortnight, so what’s the point in me starting a big business,” he said. 

According to food sustainability website foodwise, the average Australian household wastes $1,036 in food each year, totalling $8 billion in annual waste.