Skip to main content

Small Business Administration Honors NC State Spinoff SinnovaTek

A group photo of nine individuals, African and Caucasian in front of a store front in Kenya.
Josip Simunovic (far right), Tawanda Muzhingi (front row, second from the left) and the SinnovaTek team visit Burton and Bamber Limited in Kenya.


SinnovaTek, a spinoff company co-founded by Josip Simunovic, professor in NC State’s Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences, won an award for its international impact from the Small Business Administration (SBA). 

The SBA recognized SinnovaTek with the Tibbetts Award for demonstrating the economic and societal impacts of improved microwave processing technology. SinnovaTek is the only North Carolina-based company recognized with this award for 2020. 

SinnovaTek produces nutritious, shelf-stable foods that don’t require refrigeration, working with food processing partners around the world, most recently in Kenya. 

“SinnovaTek may be located in Raleigh, but the company is making a significant impact on the lives of young children in sub-Saharan Africa – where 48 percent of children under 5 years old suffer from vitamin A deficiency,” the SBA announcement said. “The company’s Nomatic processing system is helping to address this issue in Kenya with the production of sweet potato puree.”

SinnovaTek shipped a microwave processor to Kenya in 2020, working with collaborator Tawanda Muzhingi, a food scientist with the International Potato Center of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and an adjunct professor in NC State’s Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences.

A group of five men unloading a wooden crate.
Unloading a SinnovaTek microwave processing system in Kenya.

SinnovaTek was founded in 2015 by Simunovic, NC State alumna Amanda Vargochik and longtime collaborator Michael Druga, the company’s current president and CEO. Many of its employees are NC State alumni, and several of its patented technologies are licensed from or co-developed with NC State. 

The company reduces food waste by creating a market for vegetables that don’t fit the size or shape requirements for fresh market sales. Microwave processing can be done in small batches, making the technology a good fit for small-scale food processing.

The Tibbetts Award also recognizes SinnovaTek’s achievement in building and initiating production at the first advanced, precision-scale processing facility of its kind, FirstWave Innovations in Raleigh.  

The R&D and production facility was constructed and brought on line under restrictive and difficult pandemic circumstances, but it is already well on its way to operating at full capacity. FirstWave is the most recent industrial implementation of SinnovaTek’s patented technologies for continuous flow microwave sterilization and aseptic packaging, enabling superior nutrition and flavor quality for baby and infant foods, personalized nutrition formulations, and novel, health-promoting, plant-based products.

In addition to working to improve microwave processing, SinnovaTek provides research and development services to food processing companies. 

Additional installations of SinnovaTek equipment and technologies are under consideration for North Carolina, several countries in Africa, South America and Europe.