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Dr. Buncha Ooraikul

Dr. Buncha Ooraikul Some years ago, Dr. Buncha Ooraikul worked for a company in New Zealand that produced instant mashed potatoes. The quality, he says, was very poor, and he was determined to improve the product.

Ooraikul first discovered his patented instant mashed potatoes partly by accident in the late 1970s. After leaving some frozen potatoes to thaw, he found that the granules could be dried more easily than if the vegetables were immediately dried. This "Freeze-Thaw" method was eventually developed into an efficient way of making superior instant potatoes that were nutritious and tasty.

University of Alberta logo After he arrived at the University of Alberta, Ooraikul continued his research in nutrition, concentrating on french-fries and their mass production, an industry in which much of the potato is often wasted. After expressing his concerns to the president of a local food products company, Ooraikul was challenged to develop a product that would use nutritious but otherwise discarded food material. He and his co-researchers experimented with a variety of ideas and eventually came up with the artificial potato skin: an edible alternative that uses excess potato parts to create a shell ideal for mashed or pre-garnished frozen potatoes.

Target group and consumer studies have been positive, but Ooraikul says he is still waiting for an industrial partner to pick up his product. Recently, a company that produces pre-peeled potatoes has shown interest in using similar technology to minimize their discarded material.

Currently in 2003, Dr. Ooraikul is a professor of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Alberta, and is planning his retirement within the next year.

Much of the information on this page is from "Patent Portraits, A Celebration of Inventions and Patents from the University of Alberta, "published in 1996 by the Office of the Vice-President (Research and External Affairs) in collaboration with the Industry Liaison Office, now known as the Research Services Office.

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