Technology and chocolate -- both highly addictive things -- come deliciously together in TCHO, an American chocolate production company based in San Francisco, Calif.
TCHO combines “technology” and “chocolate” in the treat-making process with custom-developed machinery in the lab, and an iPhone app that allows employees to remotely control machines and communicate with cocoa bean growers around the world.
“We run test batches of every bean sample we receive through our lab and can monitor and adjust processes from our iPhones. This is particularly helpful when we are running long tests on flavor,” Zohara Mapes, member of the TCHO Bean Team told FoxNews.com.
Short of a chocolate river, TCHO’s 30,000-square-foot factory produces multiple flavors of chocolate bars, chocolate-coated treats, drinking chocolate and baking ingredients.
A password-protected, factory-automation app for the Bean Team was developed specifically for TCHO's flavor lab with the help of FXPAL, a research branch of Fuji Xerox.
Mapes explained that a flavor test batch may take more than 30 hours to cook. “With the iPhone I can check that the temperatures are where I want them and remotely shut them off so they will be ready for me to taste on Monday morning.”
Not just an alert system, the app is a window into the flavor lab with multiple cameras that can zoom around and see all sides of the lab.
The second system used by the team is an animated, 3D modeled virtual world of the running factory with embedded videos overlaid with specific processes of the factory equipment.
“You can take a virtual tour of our factory with avatars and learn about what is happening in each machine. Currently this is in beta form internally and not open to the public,” Mapes told FoxNews.com.
TCHO has installed "flavor labs" in Ecuador and Peru with plans for another in the Dominican Republic later this year, with the help of a research grant from USAID. With software from Cropster, he can remotely train partners on use of the equipment and collaborate remotely on specific cocoa samples.
“This is helping us to ... get the specific flavor and consistent quality we need for our single-origin chocolate flavors like Fruity from Peru and Nutty from Ecuador.”
The teams say the combination of these technologies have “increased connectivity to a whole other level we didn’t have before.”