In 2009 aeronautical engineer Dan Preston sold Atair Aerospace, a $22 million business that designed parachutes for the military. Largely barred from the defense industry by a noncompete clause, Preston, who holds more than 100 patents, sought a new direction. He found one while surveying his family’s property in the Dominican Republic, which contained a few small cacao farms. Contemplating the multicolored fruit, he saw untapped potential.
Preston was struck by the lack of sophistication in the way cacao was harvested. He looked into controlling the fermentation process in a semi-sterile environment. As a result, he noticed, the chocolate was purer and more fragrant.