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Great power saving through accidental discovery

Simply because the thermometers within them are wrongly placed, modern store refrigerators are consuming far more energy than necessary – that is what researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, found out. But they also figured out how to solve the problem. And because supermarket refrigeration accounts for around 1.5 per cent of Sweden’s total electricity usage, with the figures in Germany and the United Kingdom being similar, the potential efficiency savings are therefore extremely significant. Tommie Månsson recently completed his doctoral project looking at how supermarkets could function as virtual batteries in smart electrical grid systems. But during his experiments, he realised something peculiar. He saw that the thermometers which regulate the temperature of supermarket refrigerators were systematically incorrectly placed, resulting in excess cooling.
“When stores switched from open refrigerated cabinets to closed ones with a door, they failed to reposition the thermometer that measures the recirculating air. Since the thermometer is placed close to the door, the air seems warmer than it actually is, leading the refrigerator to lower the temperature more than necessary. As a result the fridge uses more energy than is actually needed, and runs more unevenly.” – Tommie Månsson
When the researchers experimented with moving the thermometers to a more suitable position within the refrigerators, thus showing a more accurate temperature, they noticed that the refrigerators consumed on average about 5 per cent less energy. The potential improvements could affect over 3000 supermarkets in Sweden alone. “We then saw several climate-positive effects. The temperature of the air entering the refrigerator when the doors were opened had less impact, and it became easier to maintain an even temperature – which is more energy efficient. In addition, when the refrigerators were not inadvertently cooling the indoor temperature of the store as much as before, the overall heating needs of the supermarket were reduced,” says Tommie. The discovery has now led to an EU patent for a thermometer holder for supermarket refrigerators, making the thermometer easy to move and reposition. A startup company has even been launched to market the innovation.  

Untapped potential

Pilot tests in stores of German supermarket chain Rewe have been successful, with around 7000 thermometers repositioned, leading to a clear reduction in consumption, and a further rollout of the small thermometer holders is planned. In Sweden and the rest of Europe, the market has not yet realised the potential, despite the fact that in Sweden alone there are potentially more than 3,000 stores that could reduce their consumption. Swedish supermarkets account for 3 per cent of Sweden’s total electricity consumption, of which refrigerators alone account for about half of this figure. The figures in Germany and the United Kingdom are similar. Improving their energy efficiency even more could thus have a huge impact in reducing energy use and the resultant carbon dioxide emissions. “Probably the market has not yet realised what there is to gain here. In the past, stores had open refrigerators. When they put on doors, energy consumption was more than halved – a fantastic improvement. So the market seems content, despite the fact that it can improved yet further still.” Tommie Månsson continues, “Refrigerated foods are of course far more widespread now than ever before. So despite the fact that most stores have replaced their inefficient open refrigerators with more energy-efficient closed ones, it seems that in total, the cooling systems do not actually consume less electricity than before, because the supermarkets today have so many more refrigerators.”

Food & Beverage

(Organic) Food: Fewer Losses through Sensory Detection

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In the future, it should be possible to monitor and assure the quality of (organic) food along the value chain more quickly and efficiently than before. To this end, new sensory detection methods are being developed that will help to reduce food losses. From harvesting to logistics and storage to processing or the way to retail, methods are to be provided with which food can be planned, distributed and further processed in the best possible way, taking into account individual quality characteristics. They are being developed in the joint project “SHIELD – Safe domestic (organic) food through sensory detection methods”, which is being funded by the Bavarian Research Foundation with €1.2 million. Coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV, this digital transformation of analytics, sensor technology and detection in food quality management will start on July 1, 2021.

Together with scientific institutions and application partners, fundamental concepts are being developed that also involve monitoring and control authorities such as the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety. The proportion of organically farmed land in Bavaria has been rising steadily since 1994 and is to be increased to 30% of agricultural land by 2030 through the BioRegio 2030 program. At the EU level, moreover, the area to be farmed organically will be expanded to 25% from 2023 under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Farm-to-Fork strategy. “Strengthening quality and safety across organic value chains is therefore also of great importance for the competition of the Bavarian organic sector. In order to reduce the need to sort out food raw materials that are damaged or unsuitable for human consumption, we need simple and reliably manageable processes that can be used to analyze raw materials as soon as they are received,” explains Prof. Dr. Andrea Büttner, Executive Director of the Fraunhofer IVV and joint spokesperson for the SHIELD project.

 

Handheld devices and smart software facilitate planning

Sensory detection methods should make it easier to generate quality forecasts and optimize logistics chains in order to address the actual needs of the food industry and consumers. By accurately determining the (organic) raw material quality for processing or delivery to retail, food losses can be significantly reduced.

 

“Among other things, we are combining sensor technologies, optical methods and smart algorithms to develop handheld devices and smart software that can be used in small-scale operations. In addition, detection methods for the authenticity of both raw materials and produced foods are being established.”

– Dr. Susann Vierbauch of the Fraunhofer IVV

 

At the Chair of Aroma and Odor Research at the Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU), marker substances are defined from authentic sample material for quality determination. These form the basis for the development of rapid methods for incoming goods. The Fraunhofer IVV, the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Microsystems and Solid State Technologies EMFT and the Chair of Analytical Food Chemistry at the Technical University of Munich are responsible for the evaluation. Profiling methods are being developed at the Chair of Food Chemistry at FAU in order to be able to systematically detect unexpected problems.

In addition to recording the quality and safety of the delivered raw materials, the rapid and profiling methods are also used to determine the authenticity of the raw materials. During the project, the rapid methods will be continuously compared with further findings and validated in practice at the industrial partners. These findings are incorporated into a data platform that is used for combinatorial analysis and correlation of the measurement results.

 

Digital incoming goods and online logistics

The evaluated low-cost sensors, which are used on site by the industry partners during goods receipt as a quick method as well as during storage, provide valuable data on the quality, safety and authenticity of the raw goods. Thus, the digitization of incoming goods via NIR and optical methods generates an enormous amount of information, e.g., about shape, color, size and texture. This information enables reliable shelf life predictions through pattern recognition and thus improves logistics and formulation during processing. At the Chair of Machine Learning and Data Analytics at FAU, methods and models for shelf life and sales forecasts are being developed for this purpose.

This takes into account the fact that product-specific knowledge can be integrated into the forecasts. In this way, seasonal fluctuations in sales can be taken into account. Based on this, mathematical optimization models are provided at the Chair of Business Mathematics to support the formulation process. These automatically generate suggestions for forward-looking, sustainable production planning. An online approach ensures that logistics and production are always in an optimal state through constant reoptimization when new information arrives.

As part of the project, a needs analysis is being carried out and knowledge transfer established at the Technical University of Nuremberg at the Neumarkt i.d.Opf. site in the research area of management in the organic sector. The aim is, in addition to recording the overall situation in the organic sector, to define the specific challenges and implement the findings from the SHIELD project. In addition, these are then to be transferred to other related product levels.

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Food & Beverage News

Innovation from proven technology

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Because of the dust which arises when products are created, grinding places particularly high demands on the technology used. The design of a grinding plant with regard to safety, for both machines and their operators. The pressure shock resistant design of the complete grinding system up to an explosion overpressure of 10 bar(g) is the most frequently used version, which, however, is associated with a high level of equipment and corresponding space requirements. Thanks to the ATEX-compliant Condux® Compact plant concept, the installation of a high performance grinding plant for numerous products is now much easier, since explosion protection valves or explosion suppression devices, explosion isolators, fans and even conventional dust filter systems are no longer required with the newly developed plant concept. The idea of a compact grinding system is not new but existing solutions show significant disadvantages when it comes to cleaning efforts and hygienic design. NETZSCH has therefore improved the decisive points of its concept once again: The footprint or space requirement of the compact plant is 80 % less than that of comparable standard grinding plants with the same throughput capacities. This also has an effect on the investment costs, which are approximately 30 % lower. By using the newly developed CycloFil cyclone filter in the system, the integrated pre-separation of the grinding stock and the recirculation of the process gas allow a filter area that is over 90 % smaller than that of comparable mill sizes. With CycloFil, the degree of separation can be adapted to the operator’s requirements by means of exchangeable immersion tubes. These features of the new system result in various advantages. For example, the grinding system can be easily integrated into existing production systems thanks to the minimal space requirement, and the necessary cleaning when changing products is extremely quick thanks to easy access to the parts in contact with the product. The well-proven Impact Mill Condux® is the basis machine of this grinding system. The products are ground within this mill mainly by impact and shearing action. For use with a wide variety of products and final finenesses, this machine is available in various executions, as either a blast mill, pin-disc mill or wing-beater mill.Press release – NETZSCH Grinding & Dispersing In contrast to conventional grinding plants, the processing gas in the streams in a circular motion. The product is fed directly to the mill via a pressureshock-resistant rotary valve and discharged after the grinding process via a separator with air lock. Parallel to this, the additional rinsing air fed through the valves and mill bearing is continuously discharged through the CycloFil to prevent a build-up of pressure. A subsequent aspiration system generates the vacuum needed to stabilise the system pressure. Thanks to the innovative CycloFil cyclone filter, the supplied energy is dissipated via the product and the system surface, so that no additional cooling is required. The warmth produced by the grinding process is mainly compensated along with the product when it leaves the machine and to a smaller extent by the system surface, and is therefore throughput dependent. The expected temperature increase, for e.g. of ground powdered sugar (d90 = 100 μm) is normally in the range of ∆T = 10-25°C. For a large range of products the warming has no influence on the quality or the downstream process. For the grinding of particularly temperature-sensitive products, the system can be additionally cooled with liquid nitrogen. Especially the degree of innovation of the System was confirmed recently by the Fi Europe Innovation Award jury, who awarded the fine impact mill Condux® Compact as the winner of the Food Tech Innovation Award for the most innovative technical processing solution for food ingredients.
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Conveying & Filling, Packaging, Labeling & Storage Food & Beverage News

New naturally colored capsules without e-number

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The new portfolio of ACGcaps™ NTone includes multiple coloured capsules with no e-number. The aesthetically appealing colour solutions include Ocean Blue, Sunny Yellow, Desert Brown, Purple Pure Carrot, and Red Pure Radish. The colours used are safe and non-toxic, do not contain any artificial ingredients, and there is no change to product shelf life when compared to synthetic-coloured capsules. This new range creates the perfect opportunity for formulating clean label products.
  “Consumer preference has shifted, and there is an increasing need for products with recognisable and simple ingredients. We anticipate real interest in these naturally coloured capsules, particularly for nutraceutical formulations, such as dietary supplements. Customers can fill them with powders, pellets, or granules.” – Selwyn Noronha, CEO of ACG Capsules  
The portfolio includes a range of capsules that are free of titanium dioxide and are available in different options for gelatin and HPMC range. Selwyn Noronha further explains, “As part of our unwavering commitment towards product quality and safety, we have worked tirelessly to deliver a new capsule to meet consumer demands for clean products. We are determined to deliver products that are of superior quality while meeting consumers’ varying needs. ACGcaps™ TSafe and ACGcaps™ NTone are available in options that have been Halal, Kosher, Vegetarian society, non-GMO and preservative-free certified.”
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