INNOVATOR: Founder and CEO of Freeze Dry Industries Michael Buckley in one of his driers.
INNOVATOR: Founder and CEO of Freeze Dry Industries Michael Buckley in one of his driers. John McCutcheon

Yandina innovator Freeze Dry Industries launches factory

THEY'RE light, crunchy, preservative-free and packed with flavour - but that's not all these snacks processed in Yandina have going for them.

Sunlife Superfoods' StraightUp snacks are made at one of the Sunshine Coast's newest innovative businesses: the Freeze Dry Industries plant at Yandina.

Former Victorian resident Michael Buckley moved to the Coast to start his freeze- drying business, and now heads both companies from his base at Industrial Pl.

He chose the Coast for its proximity to a range of fresh produce and the ease of access it offered to good transport routes for domestic and export sales.

It took three years of planning.

"We're so excitied,” Mr Buckley said.

"As with starting anything, moving family and all that sort of thing, you think this is a really big deal.

"(But) we've got such a belief in the product and in the region as a food centre that we're really happy about it.”

Mr Buckley had worked with the Victorian family that devised the technology FDI now uses, researching commercial possibilities with their blessing.

He was sure there would be a market for large-scale freeze-drying, which locks nutrients into the preservative-free product and has "huge potential” to be used for everything from a powder-form smoothie additive to snacks such as those made by Sunlife Superfoods, to nutraceuticals (which are pharmacy-grade, standardised nutrients).

"It takes an otherwise perishable food and puts it into a light-weight, long shelf-life, nutritious product because it captures all that nutrition,” Mr Buckley said.

A few practical criteria surrounded his decision about where to start his processing plant.

"It had to be on a main arterial, and had to be close to a main port - to the markets in Brisbane,” he said.

"I always loved the Noosa and Sunshine Coast region.

"I started looking around on the internet and found this development at Yandina, put my finger on the map and said, 'That looks good'.”

Sunshine Coast Council industry investment facilitator for food and agribusiness, Wendy MacDonald, took Mr Buckley on a tour of the Coast.

He met some of the Coast's leading businesspeople in the sector, including at Epicurean Products, which is now his neighbour.

He so far has plans to process fruit, vegetables and powders, but he hopes to expand into more exotic products such as freeze-dried cheese.