Reduce waste and future-proof production with automatic product recovery

Industry 4.0; fourth industrial revolution; internet of things – Three terms referring to the shift in industry towards autonomous production systems using machines which are controlled and monitored by computer-based algorithms. While there can be a lot of hype, there is no doubt that the general direction of travel in manufacturing is for the use of more autonomous systems – presenting a fantastic opportunity for businesses to tackle key challenges, such as minimising and preventing waste.

When processing various, often viscous, food products a certain amount adheres to the inside surfaces of machinery and pipework. Some product may also be left behind upon completion of each production run. A combination of good design and cleaning systems can be used to overcome the issue. The three main techniques – physical ‘pigging systems’, water-based flushing, and forcing clean air through the system – all remove residual product as part of cleaning-in-place (CIP) procedures, which may need to be carried out several times a day.

While all of these recovery techniques have the ability to salvage residual product, a certain amount is still lost as waste. However, by using inline monitoring equipment linked to a system designed to allow product which meets the specified parameters to be reworked, the amount of valuable product recovered from equipment such as pasteurisers and sterilisers can be maximised.

This concept is not new in automation. Every HRS pasteuriser or steriliser already has a temperature transmitter and a three-way valve installed after the holding tube. If for any reason the pasteurisation or sterilisation temperature (set point) is not maintained through the holding tube, the temperature transmitter sends a signal to the valve to return the product to the holding tank.

This same principle is now being applied to the HRS Product Recovery System. Rather than just measuring temperature, any suitable physical or chemical property can be continually monitored, such as Brix, pH, viscosity or density. The choice of which parameter is used depends on the nature of the product and the sensors that are available.

For example, on a line producing fruit juice, monitoring the concentration of the juice leaving the pasteuriser is monitored using a Brix meter allows any juice which falls below a set level to be diverted. By monitoring the product concentration from the beginning of the flushing cycle, it is possible to send juice with a Brix level of 12 or higher to the next phase of production (such as packing), and only discard material which falls below this set parameter.

As well as increasing the amount of product which can be sold, reducing the amount of waste generated decreases disposal costs such as storage, transport and treatment. Alongside these financial benefits, the environmental footprint of the production line will also be improved, with more end product being obtained for the same effort – effectively lowering CO2e emissions per unit produced. Furthermore, cutting down the amount of product mixed in with the flushing or cleaning water means that the resulting waste stream is cleaner and will require less processing.

As all HRS pasteurisers and sterilisers already include a three-way valve to allow for the diversion of out-of-specification product, the only real additional expense are the monitoring and control systems. With potential cost savings running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, such systems rapidly repay any additional capital expense.

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New protection system for cherries comes to Europe

A new cherry protection system, which the manufacturers claim can be opened and closed in minutes, is heading to European orchards having been successfully used in Chile.

Wayki Solutions says that a single worker can cover, or remove, on hectare in just 20 minutes, much less time than is required with most other systems, including automated ones. The system uses a normal hand drill to turn the winding mechanism, which in turn opens and closes the covers, which sit above the existing orchard poles.

Cristián Lopez of Wayki Europe said, “Around the world, we are experiencing more and more severe and unexpected weather conditions. This has serious implications for the fruit business as it raises the possibility of events including rain and hail damaging fruit, and high winds damaging growing infrastructure such as poles and cables. Wayki is a very exciting development because it gives growers the control to cover and uncover their orchards and vineyards in a matter of minutes in response to these events.”

As well as cherries, the company believes that the cover system may have applications for crops including blueberries, apples and other soft fruit, and different types of cover can be fitted.

Photo Credit: pixabay

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Re-trial of Tesco executives begins this week

This week sees the re-trial of two former Tesco executives begin at Southwark Crown Court in London after their first trial in February was called off.

Christopher Bush, 52, former managing director of Tesco UK, and John Scouler, 50, former UK food commercial director, are both charged with one count of fraud by abuse of position and one count of false accounting. Both deny the charges.

The case resulted from an overstatement of Tesco’s profit forecast in 2014 which plunged the company into turmoil and led to several senior members of staff being suspended.

According to the legal indictment, Bush and Scouler concealed Tesco’s true financial position from its auditors and other employees between Feb. 1, 2014 and Sept. 23, 2014. Legal representatives for Bush and Scouler declined to comment ahead of the trial.

Photo Caption: Christopher Bush pictured during his time at Tesco.

Photo Credit: Adrian Brooks/Imagewise

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Produce Investments loses contract

Press reports suggest that major potato supplier Produce Investments, which owns Greenvale AP, Swancote Foods and The Jersey Royal Company, has lost one of its key contracts.

According to Food Manufacture, the unnamed customer plans to implement a ‘single supplier strategy’ and so Produce Investments will not be offered a new contract when its existing one expires next August, with product volume expected to be gradually phased over three years from that date.

A spokesman for Produce Investments said, “While naturally disappointed with the outcome of this decision, this is part of the ordinary course of business in the sector in which the company operates. The board will continue to work hard to drive new business and mitigate over time any negative impact this decision may have on the company’s operations.”

The news came just days before new Greenvale managing director Andy Clarkson, who has been promoted from customer operations director, was due to address the FPJ Live conference in Coventry. On his appointment, Mr Clarkson commented, “I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue the development of the Greenvale business. We have a great team internally and externally and I am very much looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”

Last month Produce Investments accepted a £52.95 million takeover from Jersey-based investment company Bidco, which will delist the group from the stock market.

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The Role of Zero Liquid Discharge in Reducing Hazardous Wastes

Thanks to tighter environmental regulations and greater public awareness, companies are increasingly looking to reduce or eliminate the waste that they produce. In recent years, Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) has become an important waste reduction technique, but its potential in dealing with hazardous waste streams has not been fully appreciated until now.

One of the advantages of ZLD over other treatment techniques is its theoretical ability to separate unwanted materials from water, whether they are benign, hazardous or toxic. The resulting solid residue is often more stable, making it suitable for recycling or landfill. A well-designed ZLD system should minimise or even eliminate liquid waste streams, resulting in clean water for reuse or environmentally-friendly discharge, and a solid residue suitable for further processing (often to recover valuable components for use elsewhere) or for safe disposal.

Correct analysis is crucial

The composition of wastewater streams varies greatly; certain wastewater sources, such as power plants and boilers with wet gas scrubbing, often contain salts which may be hazardous, valuable, or both. Environmental regulation usually means that treatment is required to reduce or remove such toxic compounds before wastewater can be discharged. Other sources, such as wet flue gas desulfurization, may contain highly soluble calcium and aluminium salts, as well as heavy metals, which are not easily crystallised by evaporation.

The effective design of any ZLD system, and the appropriate pre-treatment processes, is therefore dependent on the correct analysis of the water/waste stream, making it essential to have an accurate analysis of composition, flow rates, chemistry, etc. Without this, any designed solution will fail to deliver the required results, if it works at all.

Energy-efficient evaporation

Vapour compression evaporation is commonly used in ZLD as evaporation can recover up to 95 per cent wastewater as distillate. Any remaining concentrate is further treated physically or chemically to produce solid residues (such as crystals) and water. By running the evaporators at lower pressures, the boiling point of the liquid being treated is reduced. This means that multi-effect evaporation can be made possible; that is, steam from a previous evaporation stage is used as thermal energy in the next stage which works at a lower boiling point. This way, multiple evaporation stages are combined, generating significant energy savings. For many components, crystal precipitation is favoured at lower temperatures, therefore lowering evaporation temperatures helps to increase the solids yield.

The role of heat exchangers

HRS Heat Exchangers is in the final commissioning stage of a ZLD system for an industrial client in Europe. Heat exchangers play a crucial role in reducing the running costs of a ZLD system by utilising heat from process water and other existing sources, and also recapturing heat at the end of the process and reusing it to boost the energy efficiency of the overall ZLD system. Where there is a hazardous liquid waste stream to deal with, then the potential to utilise ZLD techniques as part of the overall treatment solution should definitely be investigated, and HRS staff would be happy to discuss the potential options with you.

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New system improves blueberry production

Improving the drainage of container-grown blueberry crops can improve both fruit quality and yield according to the manufacturers of a new hydroponic tool.

The Spacer Hydropot system from Spanish company Hydroponic Systems improves root development, and therefore overall plant growth. It consists of a polypropylene gutter which raises the growing bag off the ground, and a 30×30 cm ‘tray’ which supports the bag. The system ensures air movement and drainage below the roots, while keeping them contained in the growing media.

“It allows blueberry growers to obtain all the advantages of our system: the optimum aeration between the substrate and drains, the prevention of root exit from the substrate and its contact with drainage,” explains Maria Gimenez Lopez from Hydroponic Systems. “Thanks to the easy installation and disinfection and the efficient drainage circulation, the diseases decrease – offering eventually a production that’s both higher in quality and quantity.

“This system evolved from systems having the pot resting directly on the ground to using different supports (such as polystyrene or bricks) up until the current Spacer Hydropot. Bricks or polystyrene do not allow aeration between the substrate and the drains and as a consequence the roots leave the substrate.”

Photo Caption: Diagram showing the support structure, here used in conjunction with a gutter drain.

Photo Credit: Hydroponic Systems

The post New system improves blueberry production appeared first on Hort News on 26 September 2018.

Cooling lettuce roots boosts crop growth

Israeli crop technology company Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies Ltd says that trails of its proprietary Root Zone Temperature Optimization (RZTO) system have demonstrated the benefits of optimal root temperature on Romaine lettuce.

Trials conducted in Israel this summers showed a 132 per cent increase in lettuce leaf fresh weight, while the crop’s growing cycle was reduced by almost half, with the crop ready for harvesting in 27 days. The company said that the trial followed successful RZTO cooling proof of concepts on lettuce using Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) technologies and interim results in medicinal cannabis.

Using a hybrid ground source heat exchange version of the RZTO system, lettuce roots were cooled to remain relatively stable around 24 degrees centigrade, despite air temperatures in the greenhouse regularly topping 34 degrees. In comparison, root temperature of control plantings fluctuated between 28 and 34 degrees.

Company CEO Dr Sharon Devir said that the results highlighted the many benefits of root zone cooling; “Cooling the roots of lettuce plants in summer not only significantly increases crop yield but also reduces the growing cycle duration and increase yield uniformity. These benefits together could help farmers plan for increased annual crop production and, therefore, increased income. Our RZTO systems are versatile and can be used to cool the roots of crops in open fields, grow bags, hydroponic and in soil.”

Photo Caption: The trial increased harvested fresh weight of Romaine lettuce.

Photo Credit: pxhere

The post Cooling lettuce roots boosts crop growth appeared first on Hort News on 26 September 2018.

Attitudes to plastic affecting produce sales

According to a new survey of smaller retailers by card payment services company Payment Sense, sales of goods packaged in plastic, and fruit and vegetables in particular, have declined over the last six months.

The move comes as consumers have become increasingly concerned by the environmental effects of plastic waste around the world, which have been highlighted by the BBC’s Blue Planet and forthcoming Drowning in Plastic programmes.

More than half of the 291 retailers surveyed (54 per cent) in July 2018 said that they had seen a fall in sales, with fruit juice and bottled water sales also suffering. Almost half (49 per cent) of the retailers surveyed also said more customers had requested products without packaging over the last six months.

Guy Moreve, chief marketing officer at Payment Sense, said, “Our study shows how changing consumer behaviour is starting to have an impact on the UK’s small retailers… Movements like the UK Plastics Pact are really gaining traction, as businesses and industry work towards a more circular approach to protect the environment.”

Photo Caption: Small retailers say that consumers are shunning fruit and veg wrapped in plastic.

Photo Credit: pxhere

The post Attitudes to plastic affecting produce sales appeared first on Hort News on 26 September 2018.

Heat Exchangers to improve AD plant efficiency

At BioCycle REFOR18 stand 38, HRS Heat Exchangers will be demonstrating the crucial role that heat exchangers can play in improving the overall efficiency of biogas plants: from pre-heating feedstock to concentrating and pasteurising digestate.

HRS Heat Exchangers provides a wide range of dedicated heat exchangers for the anaerobic digestion sector around the world, including feedstock and sludge heaters, multi-tank pasteuriser systems, evaporators, exhaust gas cooling, thermal hydrolysis, the HRS Digestate Concentration Systems (DCS) and the HRS Biogas Dehumidification System (BDS). Due to their high efficiency design which can include heat regeneration, not only do many HRS units need no additional energy input – instead utilising existing previously wasted heat from CHPs and other processes, but they maximise the amount of heat which can be re-used again.

HRS Heat Exchangers’ International Sales & Marketing Director Matt Hale explains:
“Every anaerobic digestion (AD) facility is different, but all of our systems are designed to recapture and utilise energy which would otherwise go to waste. Not only does this increase the efficiency of both our equipment and the AD plant overall, but it is also good for your pocket and good for the environment.”

Experienced HRS staff will be on hand throughout the BioCycle REFOR18 event to explain the full range of HRS products to the anaerobic digestion sector, including:

  • Biogas cooling: cooling and recapturing the heat from exhaust gases, for example using an HRS G Series heat exchanger, can increase the efficiency of combined heat and power (CHP) plants, with the recovered energy being used elsewhere in the plant.
  • Feedstock and sludge heating: maintaining the ideal digester temperature (particularly in the case of thermophilic plants) is essential for full material conversion, while pre-heating the feedstock prior to putting it in the digester can reduce the amount of heat needed in the digester itself. For such applications the HRS DTI Series of heat exchangers is ideal for ensuring a high level of heat transfer while minimising blockages or fouling.
  • Feedstock or digestate pasteurisation: not only are there legislative or quality drivers for pasteurisation, but operators of AD plants are increasingly seeing pasteurisation as a way of demonstrating the quality of their digestate product and increasing its value. HRS DPS (Digestate Pasteurisation Systems) are specifically designed to cope with difficult materials while maximising energy efficiency.
  • Digestate concentration & evaporation: reducing the volume of digestate can not only improve its quality as an organic fertiliser, but it also reduces storage, transport, application and disposal costs. The HRS DCS (Digestate Concentration System) uses a multi-stage evaporation process to concentrate digestate.
    Thermal hydrolysis for enhance biogas production: HRS has developed a process for the continuous thermal hydrolysis of digester sludge. This treatment changes the cell structure of the compounds, breaking down lignin and hemi-cellulose chains to create free sugars which are easier for the bacteria to digest.
  • Biogas Dehumidification System: The HRS BDS Series is an efficient solution to cool and dehumidify biogas for combustion. The system condenses up to 90% of the water contained in the gas, which is continuously separated before the lean biogas is ready for use.

Matt Hale adds:
“If you have an AD plant, then we can supply the best system for any thermal process associated with the feedstock, digestion, biogas or digestate. Not only that, but a heat recovery step can be included as a standard option on most of our systems, reducing energy costs by between 20 and 40% which also reduces the payback period considerably. Most of our equipment is easily integrated into existing plants, or we can design bespoke solutions for more complex applications. In addition our systems include state of the art system monitoring and cleaning systems, to reduce management time and effort.”

Learn more about the full range of AD systems from HRS Heat Exchangers on Stand 38 at BioCycle REFOR18 in October.

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Soil holds the secret to mitigating climate change

New research from Michigan State University in the United States suggests that crop yields and the global food supply chain can be preserved, despite the prospects of climate change, by harnessing soil.

The researchers found that carbon dioxide compensated for yield losses caused by climate change, as it acted as a natural fertiliser to help crops grow. However, when soil organic carbon losses were included in the analysis, the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was not sufficient to prevent yield losses.

“Through agronomic management, which is ‘doing the right thing at the right time for your crops,’ soil quality and health can be improved,” said lead researcher MSU Foundation Professor Bruno Basso. “Up until now, research hasn’t accounted for what soil gives back to the cycle of climate change, and it is arguably the most critical resource to adapt to mitigate its effects. Ultimately, soil is the ‘home’ of the plants. If we aren’t caring for the soil, plants and crops are unsheltered and left to deal with climate change on their own.”

He also explained that farmers can practice better agronomic management to protect soil against the effects of climate change. This should include the use of cover crops, conservation tillage, adding organic carbon to soil or by increasing yields through advanced genetics and agronomy.

Photo Caption: Research says that looking after soils can mitigate the negative effects of climate change on crop growth.

Photo Credit: Pixnio

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