Daniel Preston is still a scientist. He’s still overseeing a complicated operation. He’s still managing a lot of parts and people. But now, instead of planes and parachutes, he’s dealing in beans and bars.
Daniel invented a life-saving satellite parachute system that allows the military to drop cargo from as far as five miles high and 30 miles away, using planes that autonomously are able to land within two meters of their target. This technology formed the base of the aerospace company he founded and ran until selling in 2009.
Around the time of the sale, Daniel was visiting his family in the Dominican Republic and “caught Cacao fever.” The family farm, called Coralina, grows heirloom cacao trees that can be traced back to Columbus. Daniel is now revamping and expanding a huge operation, which requires hiring up to 1600 people this year, building a city for employees complete with schools and social services, in addition to constructing a brick factory, lumber mill, a biogas power station, among others. He’s also subsidizing about 200,000 trees a year to other farms to help poorer farmers and also protect the island's biodiversity.
“This is the side of the business which is changing my life. As an engineer I never thought I would be so excited to be a farmer, never realizing just how much science is required to architect a truly self-sustaining farm.”
And, with his team of organic chemists, plant molecular biologists, geneticists, and a master chocolatier in his Red Hook factory, Daniel is able to vertically control every step of the process resulting in a wonderfully fragrant and luxurious chocolate with the highest antioxidants possible.
“I am someone that loves chess and strategy. I didn’t expect how to architect a self-sustaining farm and change the organic chocolate industry would be such a good chess game.”