While fermented food has long made up an important and tasty part of our diets, this food powered by healthy microorganisms is finding newfound interest nowadays everywhere from the high-end restaurant to the home hobbyist to the food science lab.
However, even as this century old process enters the modern day zeitgeist, there hasn’t been much innovation in the tools in recent decades that help chefs or home cooks try their hand at fermentation. Oftentimes, chefs just use a variety of mason jars and crocks to ferment their food, or just repurpose other equipment, like combi-ovens or dehydrators, to act as makeshift fermenters.
All of which got Hong Kong-based food entrepreneur Tommy Leung asking why there wasn’t more modern equipment to empower the professional or home chef when it came to fermentation. Leung saw an opportunity to create a modern piece of equipment that would enable chefs to have multiple fermentation projects in process at once, where they could manage their fermented food with precise monitoring tools while not turning their kitchens into something resembling an eighteenth-century apothecary’s lab.
The result is HakkoBako, an IoT-connected fermentation chamber for professional food producers. The HakkoBako will have both an app as well as a touchscreen on the front of the device where users can start projects, control temperature and humidity for their fermentation food, and monitor their food with precise data logs of temperature via the app. The chamber, which will have both warming and refrigeration modes, will also have an internal camera to monitor the state of projects. Users will be able to enter and save recipes on the system.
“HakkoBako is building a fermentation chamber that lets chefs create unique and proprietary foods and flavours,” Leung told The Spoon via email. “We are using technology to make the fermentation process easier, faster and with more consistent results.”
According to Leung, the company has developed multiple prototypes that are currently being used by chefs and food developers. They’ve also started to work with a contract manufacturer in China, but the pandemic has made in-person visits to the manufacturer difficult and has put them a little behind schedule on production of the professional unit.
He also told The Spoon via email that they have plans for a home fermentation chamber that they are hoping to launch in the spring of 2021. Targeted at a price point of roughly $200 (versus around $5,000 for the commercial version), the home HakkoBako will allow users to make things like yogurt or kimchi.
Long term, the company also has plans for a fermentation lab that would be a destination for other food innovators. According to a deck Leung provided to the Spoon, the lab will “will provide support, novel ingredients and techniques with on-going testing, recording and development of the chefs recipes.”