Walt Pebley: Academy of Distinguished Engineers

Award Year
Graduation Year
Agricultural Engineering

VP Technical Innovation, OFD Foods, LLC Albany, Oregon

Walt Pebley is VP of Technical Innovation for OFD Foods LLC, the largest, diversified freeze dryer in North America. There is a reason he is a technical innovator: “I like to connect seemingly disparate engineering disciplines to find an appropriate solution,” Pebley said. While his company, also known as Oregon Freeze Dry, has built its business by producing freeze-dried cereals, meals for the military, outdoor adventures, and emergency preparedness since the 1960s, Pebley has been working on expanding the broader applications of the science. Early on, he spent a few years studying cell biology before transferring to Oregon State to pursue a degree in agricultural engineering. He was looking for a career that would benefit humanity. But it wasn’t until his dad, a designer and equipment fabricator, pulled him into a building-design project for OFD in 1982 that the puzzle pieces began to fit together. Pebley’s inspiration that freeze-dry technology might be used to preserve cellular activity led to a job with OFD and gave the company a new revenue stream providing cellpreservation services on a contract basis. Through years of interdisciplinary exploration in adapting the technology to the stabilization of compounds, cells, and inorganics, he’s developed a skillset that has led to proprietary, patented, and scalable solutions. Currently, he is working with Oregon State researchers to investigate how freeze-dry techniques can be used to improve gut microbiome health and gut-brain access to nutrient-dense, functional foods for applications in sports performance and recovery, and for use by the United States military. Pebley is also passionate about perfecting the fusion of food and medicine as a personalized delivery system to  treat and control chronic disease. “Our technology could be used to augment traditional approaches to treatment while providing a higher quality of life through diet for patients battling chemotherapy and chronic pain,” he said. Pebley remains methodical as he keeps an eye on this prize: “There is always more than one solution to a problem, but there is a best solution, if you creatively persevere.”


  • B.S. Agricultural Engineering, 1984