Automatic grape harvesting with 3D technology from ifm

With EasyPilot, the manufacturer of multi-equipment carriers and harvesters, Grégoire, has created a sensor-assisted automatic line guidance system that boasts a precision of 3 cm without needing a GPS position signal.

A great success: and ifm has played a role in it.

No other beverage holds so many secrets and divides so many opinions as wine. Wine: The Italians claim it as their national beverage, and the cup of the everlasting covenant of the Christian faith is filled with it – for in wine is truth: “in vino veritas”. One truth about wine is that it is necessary to harvest grapes to produce it. And in our days which are marked by technological progress, the most important question is: man or machine?

The romanticised image of the grape harvest, which we often see in movies and which will surely have inspired one or the other Hollywood star to buy their own vineyard, actually looks quite different in reality. Considering that in Germany alone the average citizen drinks about 20 litres of wine per year, it becomes quite obvious how much work has to be done in how little time by about 80,000 German winemakers who cultivate and harvest wine on an area of about 102,000 hectares.

How is it possible to be successful against this background?

Success through technology: Many winemakers use state-of-the-art harvesting machines like grape harvesters instead of manual labourers. Grape harvesters offer various advantages. One hectare, for example, can be harvested in 3 to 5 hours. Achieving the same result with manual labour requires 40 to 60 workers.

How does an automatic grape harvester function?

The French company Grégoire is a manufacturer of grape harvesters. Their grape harvesters can additionally be equipped with an automatic line guidance system: the “EasyPilot”. This system boasts a precision of 3cm without depending on satellite signals.

The grape row is detected by ifm’s O3M 3D sensor system. It analyses the scene in front of the harvester “point by point” using ifm’s patented PMD technology (time of flight). By creating a digitised version of the scene in front of the machine, the general properties of the vines can be gathered and visualised in abstract form. Inaccuracies caused by vine branches from the side or high grass can be excluded.

While the grape harvester moves over the vines, it creates a tunnel beneath the driver’s cab. This tunnel is provided with glass fibre rods that create vibrations. These vibrations shake the vines, so that the grapes fall off. They tumble on a conveyor belt that transports them to a collecting container. A fan removes unwanted elements such as leaves and tiny branches. There is another sensor that looks down from above and that is mounted in a central position under the cab of the harvester. This sensor is directed at the bottom and determines the height and thickness of deposits. When the signal is processed, a guiding track is generated that visualises the grape row as a model. This model is used as a basis to calculate the ideal route for the harvester to take. When the machine is in the grape row, the driver starts the EasyPilot via the screen in the cab. Once the system is started, all the driver needs to do is have an eye on the operating speed and the tools – everything else is taken care of by the system. When the end of the grape row is reached, a visual and acoustic signal will inform the driver that the harvester needs to be turned around to move along the next grape row.

There were times when the time for the grape harvest was ordained by the government. Today, winemakers can decide for themselves, and with the grape harvesters from Grégoire, grapes can be harvested at any time – even at night.

Innovation pays off: Grégoire have won the innovation award for their new automatic line guidance system EasyPilot that is based on the O3M sensor system from ifm. The automatic grape harvester will be presented at the SITEVI, an important trade fair dedicated to viticulture.

The result of a long history. And the beginning of another success story for ifm: After they had adopted ifm’s 3D sensor technology, Grégoire also became fascinated with other ifm products, such as our controllers. Thanks to the grape harvest project, Grégoire has become a huge ifm fan.

The application was successfully implemented by ifm France.

Preparation key to building success for food making facilities

When pie manufacturer Baked Provisions wanted to design a new facility in Western Sydney, it had to make sure that not only was the budget met, but it would have a building that would meet its operational needs and capital constraints. Luckily, Total Construction was able to meet both these requirements.

When building a new facility, a food manufacturer knows that such a capital investment of a bespoke building can be a costly affair. Baked Provisions knew this, so they knew they needed a company that would not only build a quality facility to its specifications, but would do so within its budget.

Total Construction is a company that specialises in building commercial facilities that are designed to give clients the best value for money, and to make sure that the finished product meets the operational needs of a busy, modern enterprise.

Total knows the key to a successful project is to make sure the client involves a builder early on in the process.

Baked Provisions’ management team embraced this strategy and it wasn’t long before the company started helping the Prestons-based bakery conceptualise and design the project from the ground up.

Early Contractor Involvement

“Commonly known in the construction game as Early Contractor Involvement (ECI), having a builder involved during the scoping and design stage can allow critical cost items in any build/ fit out be identified and alternatives discussed,” Total Construction’s national business manager Rob Blythman told Food & Beverage Industry News.

“For instance, you may have a plan to construct a mezzanine level in your operations. Although perfect for the intended process flows, it can be extremely costly to construct.”

Blythman pointed out that sometimes clients cannot see the forest for the trees. They are so entrenched in their business they only see one aspect of the project, such as increasing efficiencies in their production.

“Involving a builder with process engineering capability in the food and beverage industry, such as Total Construction, can allow different eyes to see the requirements and suggest alternatives to the building layout that just don’t reduce the need for costly building works, but can potentially improve the process flow overall,” he said.

How does ECI work to help companies like Baked Provisions meet their budget?

The first step is a site visit, or investigation, which is carried out by the builder. This is similar to scoping a site. Total Construction looked at the existing site and the blueprint of the new facility. This allowed it to see all the services Baked Provisions would need in order to have an efficient operation.

The company also took stock of what utility services were available at the site. The Western Sydney industrial estate where the facility is located was fairly new so it was important to make sufficient services were available (i.e.. gas and electrical capacities). This is something that some businesses forget to do. Not only do you have to make sure the services are available, but increasing power or gas supply to a site can be very costly to the project and create delays.

Another area that needs consideration in the case of an existing building to be fitted out, is the structure integrity. Having to strengthen this to cope with the additional weight of fit out and services can often blow out project costs.

Getting stakeholders together

“A workshop was carried out with all stakeholders to identify required efficiencies, confirm proposed outputs and flag any potential limitations,” said Blythman. “As part of this workshop all production processes were mapped and detailed for both the existing and proposed operations. A comprehensive list including capacities and dimensions of all equipment both existing and new was developed. This helped to identify all utility services required and set the benchmark for power and gas requirements at the proposed site.”

One of the main reasons for being so comprehensive in the planning stage is, again, to save money for the client. It helps identify potential bottle necks in current processes and highlights any hygiene requirements in the new fit out, something that is a key ingredient in the food and beverage industry. Getting all this data captured was critical in maximising efficiencies of the new facility.

Once all these things were scoped, the Total Construction team got to work on the practicalities of the build for Baked Provisions.

“A review of the build-ability of the facility was done and sketch design layouts were completed to optimise process flows to best fit the client’s objectives,” said Blythman.

“A building/fit out SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis was carried out and build/ fit out costs were derived. Through consultation between ourselves and the client this process allowed savings to be identified early on in the overall design and layout of the facility.”

When Blythman talks about a detailed design, this includes all the services and other requirements, which is then put to the market for live market costing. This was so the client could get a firm understanding of what they could get for their dollar. It was at this point that the building of the facility was finalised.

“Here is where working to a budget comes in,” said Blythman. “Once the ideal building and fit out costs are established, it is then possible to derive further reductions in the overall project spend through rationalising the design. This included, but was not limited, to reducing the number and sizes of rooms, freezer/cool room capacities and locations, and finishes in the design.”

He said that this could be done while keeping future expansion capability intact in the design and maintaining the client’s required production output for their new facility.
Total Construction knew that a key to the success of the build was making sure it met Baked Provisions’ needs, as well as giving them the best advice during all stages of the project.

The new facility will make Baked Provisions' range of pies, savoury items and cakes.
The new facility will make Baked Provisions’ range of pies, savoury items and cakes.

New advocacy group addressing food waste in Australia

New advocacy group, the Australian Food Cold Chain Council, aims to address food wastage by showing food producers, logistics operators, supermarkets and consumers the cost of inaction.

The Federal Government estimates that wastage across the Australian food cold chain costs the economy $20 billion each year. In November 2017, the Department of the Environment and Energy released the National Food Waste Strategy, a document outlining the impact – both economic and societal – of food wastage, and what action the Government will take to tackle the issue and halve wastage by 2030.

One group already aware of the urgency of the problem is the Australian Food Cold Chain Council (AFCCC), an advocacy group launched by logistics professionals in August dedicated to spreading knowledge about food wastage, improving compliance and refining legislation, With senior figures at major Australian refrigeration, manufacturing and transport companies as founding members, the AFCCC aims to be part of the solution to Australia’s food waste problem.

“We want to change the industry for the better,” said Mark Mitchell, chair of the AFCCC and managing director of cold storage and transport specialist Supercool Asia Pacific.

The AFCCC is targeting the middle section of the cold food chain, which the Government estimates accounts for almost a third of the $20 billion lost annually. “Food moving from the farm to the consumer – in transport and in storage – accounts for $6.4 billion in losses annually,” he said.

“Unfortunately, there is a tendency for businesses in refrigerated transport and storage to be price driven, rather than quality driven. The by-product of this is wastage, a lack of compliance and a disregard for correct procedures.”

Mitchell pointed out that the industry has been ripe for a process overhaul for some time, but it is increasing consumer interest in companies’ “triple bottom lines” – or their social and environmental impact, not only financial performance – that has created the perfect conditions for him and other industry veterans to take action.

“We’ve been trying to do things ‘better’ for many years, while trying to appeal to businesses that are driven by the dollar to step up,” he said. “It’s very hard to ask companies to pick up their quality games when everyone is focusing on delivering the cheapest product.

“In recent times, society, consumers, governments – everyone who lives on the planet – they have realised that we can’t keep abusing the environment like we have been. With this shift in focus, we can encourage refrigerated logistics businesses to do the job properly, resulting in a cold chain that produces less wastage and fewer emissions, while improving food safety and quality for consumers.”

The cost of waste 

Mitchell said that the “cost” of discarded food does not only represent the price paid for it by the consumer, it is calculated based on the water, fuel and human resources it took to get it from the paddock to the plate – though food waste does not occur only at the end of the supply chain.

“You can’t just blame the consumer food wastage. This is 25 per cent of the problem, the other 75 per cent of food wastage happens upstream in the supply chain,” he said.

‘Temperature abuse’ – the failure to maintain transported and stored food items within recommended temperature ranges – is rampant in Australia, Mitchell explained. At worst, it can compromise food safety, though most consumers will have unknowingly fallen victim.

“We see a lot of temperature abuse, and it’s something that affects all of us on a daily basis,” he added.

“That pack of sausages that lasted two weeks in the fridge last time you bought it – it only lasted three or four days this time due to a lack of care in the cold chain.

One of our priorities will be to apply pressure in industry and in government to make sure the existing Australian standards for cold-chain food handling are properly followed.”

A more compliant cold chain – free from temperature and hygiene abuse
– will mean that food lasts longer on supermarket shelves and longer in the family fridge, Mitchell explained.

According to Mitchell, in order to improve Australia’s “far from perfect” track record in efficient, farm-to-plate cold-food handling, collaboration between government, industry associations, food handlers and suppliers will be crucial.

“There’s lots of rhetoric about commitments to food waste reduction and cold chain compliance, but little, if nothing, is being done at any level about improving the cold chain, and ensuring that standards are followed,” he said.

“Nearly 40 per cent of all the food we produce in the world is never eaten. Consider that the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) found in 2013 that one in every eight people on Earth goes to bed hungry each night – there’s a whole food wastage agenda to fix globally.”

Future focus

The 2017 Hunger Report prepared by Australian non-profit Food Bank found that food insecurity is a growing concern locally, which Mark thinks many Australians would find surprising. It reported that 3.6 million Australians had experienced food insecurity within 12 months of being surveyed – and pressure on food charities is increasing by 10 per cent each year.

“Our focus on making the cold chain better essentially comes at the task from two perspectives – reducing the environmental impact of food wastage through CO2 emissions, and tackling hunger,” said Mitchell. “If we want to feed the globe, we’re going to need to develop and maintain highly efficient refrigeration systems in the cold chain.”

He added that The World Health Organization’s How to feed the world in 2050 report, produced in 2009, projected that if global food wastage continues at its current rate, there will not be enough to feed the world’s population by 2050.

“We produce enough food for 10 billion people right now, though there are only seven billion of us,” said Mitchell. “We have to fix this – I don’t want my great grandchildren living in an environment where there’s not enough food on the shelf.”

Josh Frydenberg, the Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy, has invited the AFCCC to sit on the steering committee shaping and implementing the policies that will support the National Food Waste Strategy. “We will help the Federal Government as much as we can,” said Mitchell. “For us, a major priority will be establishing a decent code of practice for the carriage of chilled and fresh produce, a document that the industry is missing.

“While most of the developed world is on the cusp on taking initiatives to stem food wastage, at present it’s more talk than action. I think Frydenberg is to be congratulated on having developed a formal, national food waste reduction strategy – it’s a little bit visionary.”

The AFCCC has entered into a partnership with the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad), with the groups working together to revise and rewrite the code of practice for the road transportation of fresh product, a “long overdue” update, according to Mitchell. “The code of practice that is in place currently was a voluntary guide put together by the now-defunct Australian United Fresh Transport Advisory Council,” he said. “We’re going to review and rewrite the document, so that it can support legal implementation.”

The AFCCC is also keen to raise industry awareness of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) in ambient and cold food supply chains, with a view to eventually developing an accreditation program.

“Very few trucks or loading docks in Australia have temperature monitoring, even though the technology is available,” said Mitchell. “The nation’s cold chain compliance is behind other developed nations, and Europe is leading the way. We want to spread the word about the HACCP principles, to show businesses how to improve food safety and gain better control over their supply chain.”

After that, he said, the end goal is to get every stakeholder carrying food for Australian consumers involved in an accreditation program – through a common desire to do better, ideally, rather than through fear of legal reproach. “We believe there’s a better way to go about bringing in better standards than by enforcing strict legislation – there are already more than enough rules to follow in Australia,” he said.

“We want this to be about doing the right thing, for the right reasons – and it won’t hurt companies’ triple bottom lines when consumers see the steps they’re taking to help end hunger, reduce their impact on the environment and maintain quality and food safety.”

Mitchell hopes that the coming years will see a shift in the way Australia’s cold chain, retailers and consumers think about the food they buy, eat and discard.

“It is my wish and the AFCCC’s wish to enable and empower the logistics industry, food producers, supermarkets and all other stakeholders to voluntarily do some heavy lifting to bring about a compliant, quality cold-chain and supply environment,” he said.

Sustainable palm oil: A complex issue

With new labelling choices launched recently in Australia to certify products that are palm oil free, opinions differ on the best way to deal with the complex issue.

The story of palm oil and its supply is a complex one, sometimes pitting environmentalists against economists, and at times against each other. Many of the facts are simple and undeniable. Palm oil appears in many products on supermarket shelves, ranging from foods such as margarine, chocolate and ice cream to soaps and cosmetics. It is also used in fuels for vehicles and power plants.

The problem is, as The State of the World’s Forests 2016 (a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United nations) points out, some palm oil plantations contribute to deforestation. This, in turn, leads to a loss of habitat for animals, including the orangutan which has become a poster child for organisations seeking to increase consumer awareness around the issue.

Many in the food manufacturing industry have started to address the problem. For example, US agribusiness giant Cargill suspended business with a Guatemalan producer in December over breaches of the firm’s sustainable palm oil policy, and countries such as Malaysia are introducing their own certification processes.

A 2013 report commissioned by WWF-Australia and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), Palm Oil in Australia Facts, Issues and Challenges, states that “the plight of the orangutan has led to public engagement on the production and use of palm oil”.

However, it continues: “Palm oil provides opportunities to support economic and social development in some of the poorest areas in the world.”

With all this in mind, we looked at some of the groups addressing the complicated and often controversial issue.

Orangutan Alliance

The Melbourne-based Orangutan Alliance was launched in early 2017 and instituted its International No Palm Oil Certification Program later in the year. Its trademark is pending by IP Australia.

Founder and chairperson Maria Abadilla said the organisation was established to support conservation projects, and does that through its Palm Oil Free Certification and grants.

Existing legislation in Australia or New Zealand does not require transparency in labelling, she said, and even when it does appear on an ingredients list, there are more than 200 alternative names for palm oil.

“People need to know that, to be able to see the saturated fats, whether palm oil is present if that’s what they’re looking for, but also for their choice,” she said.

Palm oil is a complex issue, but an ecological emergency, Abadilla said.

“The solution will need to come from different groups from new technology, policy change to reforestation,” she said. “Orangutan Alliance is here to provide consumer choice particularly in the absence of clear labelling in some countries.”

Palm Oil Free Certification Accreditation Program 

Bev Luff, spokeswoman for the Palm Oil Free Certification Accreditation Program (POFCAP), said the POFCAP Trademark was approved by IP Australia and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in November 2016, and the program launched last year to coincide with International Orangutan Day on August 19.

The certification was also approved last year by the Intellectual Property Office of the United Kingdom, the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office and the Austrian Patent Office, she said. Applications are pending in a further 11 countries.

Luff said while POFCAP supports the idea of “non-conflict palm oil”,
as POFCAP refers to sustainable production, only 17 per cent of all palm oil is currently certified as such.

Many organisations had worked hard to discourage deforestation and educate the public and industries of the issues surrounding palm oil production, she said, but the rate
of deforestation continues to be alarming.

“There are also people who avoid palm oil for health reasons – they may or may not care about the environmental issues surrounding its production but they care what they put in their bodies and in their homes,” said Luff.

Luff said POFCAP was not an educational, conservation or political program. “POFCAP purely exists to certify if a product is 100 per cent palm oil free,” she said.

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

The inaugural meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was held in Malaysia in 2003.

The not-for-profit unites stakeholders from all sectors of the palm oil industry – oil palm producers, processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks/investors, and environmental and social non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.

The RSPO has developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).

The organisation not only certifies palm oil as sustainable, but oversees the trade in RSPO Credits, which promote the production of certified palm oil. Working in a similar manner to carbon offsets, an RSPO credit is proof that one tonne of certified palm oil was produced by an RSPO- certified company or independent producer, and has entered the palm oil supply chain.

The RSPO has more than 3,000 members worldwide who represent all links along the palm oil supply chain.

They have committed to produce, source and/or use sustainable palm oil certified by the RSPO.

WWF

Josh Bishop, head of Sustainable Food for WWF-Australia, agrees that one of the most significant threats to the world’s biodiversity, mainly because the plantations displace tropical rainforests that are the habitat for many endangered species.

WWF looks for ways to reconcile the need for food, including palm oil, with the conservation of ecosystems and wildlife, he said.

“Our interest in palm oil is partly to document and confront the threat but also to try and find practical solutions that are economically feasible and help us feed humanity without destroying the planet.”

Part of the solution is having agreed land use plans agreed to by all stakeholders, including the industry and rural communities, he said.

Palm oil is used in the production of everything from margarine, chocolate and ice cream to soaps and cosmetics.
Palm oil.

 

“And then, in those areas where food production is agreed to be the best use of the land, try to ensure that the production practices are as responsible as possible, which means minimising impact on wildlife but also minimising impact on the climate, on water resources, and any adverse impacts on rural communities.”

WWF helped establish the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and argues it is possible to achieve “good” palm oil. WWF recognises the importance of palm oil to the economies of many developing countries, and that its production is a much more efficient use of land than that of canola oil or soy oil, Bishop said.

About 20 per cent of global palm oil production is certified, but he acknowledged the provenance of the remaining 80 per cent is problematic.

“It is definitely a problem,” he said, “but there is a practical solution that is available, it’s not terrifically expensive, and there’s no reason why companies can’t switch to sustainable palm oil, including physical supplies of palm oil. It is available in Australia for those who want it.”

AFGC

James Mathews director of ommunications for the AFGC, said palm oil is a fundamental ingredient in some products in the supply chain and there is a lot of consumer misunderstanding about the issue.

“The industry takes information to its consumers seriously, and this is a huge ecological issue of which many companies have invested significantly in sustainable palm oil supply and certified palm oil supply,” he said.

“We are aware that while there is an ecological issue, there’s also the fact that many communities rely on palm oil for their economic lifeblood.”

The AFGC does not support specific trademarks or certifications but believes that improving consumer awareness and transparency of sourcing is vital.

Mathews said there is a risk of demonising an entire industry when there are organisations that are trying to ensure its production in a sustainable, responsible manner.

“You have to be careful to make sure the information is available to consumers, that consumers have some awareness that there is responsible palm oil sourcing through some of the company policies, and we would encourage more and more companies to do that,” he said.

“We would want to act as an incentive, not a disincentive.”

Specialised Bag in Box packaging solutions

Bag in box systems can be tricky. The fact is that no bag with liquid or any substance for that matter always behaves in the same way. It is like a class of three-year old’s – completely unpredictable. Glen Foreman, HMPS Applications Engineer and Bag in Box expert offers some pointers on the difficulties of bag in box packaging applications.

“Working with any liquid in a bag and then having to pack these bags into boxes can be problematic. The handling of the bag is a delicate matter. Often rather heavy and with an inconsistent shape, these bags are difficult to place into boxes accurately, efficiently and at high speed” comments Glen.

Fortunately, HMPS is no stranger to the bag in box packaging method. In fact, it was the booming wine industry in South Australia which saw them first come up with the bag in box concept. Packaging wine for wineries in the area saw the company grow from a small operation to one with various packaging machines installed worldwide. Today HMPS has expanded to a complete turnkey solution provider handling both up and downstream equipment, but they remain the experts in Bag in Box applications.

HMPS1000 Bag in Box machine for water packaging

With their experience in this field, it is little wonder that HMPS was commissioned by a water company in New Zealand to design and build an automated bag in box packaging system. Traditionally the company had been doing this filling by hand.

In this design, bags are transferred from the web filler outfeed conveyor to the HMPS infeed conveyor, which transfers the bag to the automatic loading funnel. The funnel forms the bag into the shape of the carton. The funnel moves up and down removing the possibility of the bag catching on the carton flaps. Bags are loaded through the base of the carton, which is inverted 180° so that the tap is correctly positioned.

The machine was supplied with the option of adding a second filler and loading station later. “An innovative double infeed system was designed for this machine to allow for future expansion. It is never too early to automate as machinery can grow with your business” adds Glen.

The machine consisted of the infeed conveyor, outfeed conveyor and carton turner, a case magazine and hotmelt system.

The HMPS1000 Bag in Box packers are a mono block design. One frame incorporates the carton erecting, folding, loading, and sealing. This ensures a very compact foot print. The HMPS1000 can integrate with any brand of automatic web filling machine both loading pre- filled bags into the carton or inserting the bag and filling in the carton as is often done for cream cheese.

All kinds of liquids can be packed

For liquids, bag sizes range from 1L for alcohol up to 20L for water, and 1kg to 25kg for cheese. A standard single funnel machine will run comfortably at 15-20 cartons/minute where a dual funnel machine has capability up to 30 cartons/min. The dual funnel machines are generally fed from dual Web Fillers.

Some of the liquids which can be packed into a BIB solution include:

–           Water

–           Post mix soft drink

–           Post mix soft serve

–           Alcoholic beverages

–           Liquid Cheese

–           Egg Whites

The challenges when handling a bag filled with liquid at speed are varied, from changing direction, stopping accurately to loading the bag squarely into the carton all pose challenges that HMPS have overcome with over 25 years of product development. The original Bag in Box packers are still in production today.

Packaging Hacks

To ensure precisely square sealing of the cartons the erected cartons are held securely between paddles in the indexing system. Dropping away side guides ensure the carton is kept geometrically square during transit and loading, incorporating a quick release drop away mechanism which swings away allowing the operator to easily remove any carton blockages.

To ensure precise placement in the carton the loading funnels lower down into the carton during the loading sequence ensuring a smooth transition from the funnel to the carton. Over years of development HMPS have mastered the funnel design, supplying a robust and reliable system. The funnel change over to various sizes is quick thanks to pre-programming.

HMPS can also supply an inexpensive, proven system to rotate the cartons exiting the packer. Due to the filling caps fitted to the bags the bladders are generally loaded in to the carton with the tap trailing. This ensures the tap does not jam during loading into the carton. This requires the bladder to be loaded into through the bottom of the carton ensuring accurate tap placement near the tap hole in the carton. Prior to palletising the cask needs to be up ended onto its base. The HMPS turning system is a continuous system allowing it to run at high speeds while gently handling the cask reducing the risk of damage to the finished product.

 

Looking abroad – the path to export success

Given the limited size of our local market, it makes sense for Australian food and beverage makers to export. However, according to Export Connect’s Najib Lawand, success in this endeavour is no certainty and there are some common mistakes that potential exporters should avoid.

The stars are starting to align for Australian food and beverage exporters. A range of factors including free trade deals, an attractively-valued Australian dollar, and the emergence of an ever- expanding Chinese middle class have created plenty of optimism.

However, export success is far from assured for Australian food makers. As Najib Lawand, director of Export Connect told Food & Beverage Industry News, potential exporters still need to do plenty of homework before setting out on an export path.

Choosing markets

Export Connect works with businesses, suppliers, governments, and industry bodies to help grow Australian exports.

The organisation tailors its export advisory services to meet the needs of individual businesses. In his time at the organisation, Lawand has identified some common mistakes that first-time exporters typically make. The first, he said, is not putting enough effort into choosing the right market to enter.

“Too often, businesses start their market journey solely because they’ve attended a subsidised trade show that government agencies may have run. But these markets, such as China, might not be the best market in which to launch their export journey,” he said.

Likewise, he said that the US is not the best choices for new exporters. These large markets can tie first-timers in knots if their entry strategies are not well-considered.

“China, for example, features varied and inconsistent import regulations, complicating the benefits of any openings in that market. Though it may be worthwhile, we advise against it for those who are still new to the game.”

According to Lawand, there are a few common characteristics among the markets most likely to deliver success for first-time exporters.

“These markets are both easy to deal with and hungry for our products. Often, they will have a sophisticated channel structure on the ground, and simple and clear regulations to follow. Their consumers will generally be affluent, with a high disposable income, and a large proportion of expats,” he said.

“As a wealthy city or nation, they are usually the economic hub in their region. Markets such as Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong all fall neatly within this description.”

According to Lawand, choosing the right market should involve considering each country’s demographics. This includes whether the target consumers are locals or expats, as well as market access issues like halal certification or organic accreditation.

Najib Lawand, director of Export Connect, says potential exporters need to do their homework before choosing a destination for their products.
Najib Lawand, director of Export Connect.

 

“The business’ market entry strategy may also change over time. For example, the business may initially enter a market through an Australian-based trader who sells directly to a supermarket chain (this may be the best way to test a product). But after 12 months of growth, a review may show that it’s now best to have the product distributed to multiple retailers and into food service channels,” said Lawand.

“This means that pricing needs to be considered from the very start, to ensure there aren’t any increases in price when distributors are introduced into the value chain.”

Setting prices

Lawand said another common mistake suppliers make is applying a cost-plus- pricing strategy for export markets without really considering what the recommended retail price should be, and then working backwards from there.

By doing this, he said, first-time exporters often sell themselves short. It means that valuable profit, that could otherwise have been reinvested in promotions, is often left on the table.

“Businesses can only set correct prices by conducting online and in-store competitor price analysis,” said Lawand. “This research will reveal the business’ direct and indirect competitor product prices; their product claims; pack sizes; and which countries they come from, among other data to create a thorough competitor product profile.”

Ideally, businesses have the opportunity to conduct on-shelf product analysis by visiting the market themselves or having access to resources that can do this on-site research for them.

“It is important that suppliers understand the margins of their product throughout the value chain. Armed with what they believe their product should retail for, they can then work backwards and determine their export price. In this process, it is critical that an allowance is made for a promotional program, as marketing their brand is fundamental to long-term growth and success,” said Lawand.

A thoroughly planned market entry strategy is crucial for new exporters. According to Lawand, it should start with questions about consumers – who are they and where do they shop? Then, the strategy should consider possible food service channels – restaurants, hotels, cafes, duty-free, gyms, hospitals, and so on.

“You also need to think about compliance with ingredient and labelling requirements in each market; and efficient and safe transit options, including consideration for the shelf- life of the product,” said Lawand.

Doing business in foreign countries

When travelling overseas to do business, it is important to remember that you are a guest. Being respectful to your hosts and their culture is a top priority.

“Buyers from different cultures and in different markets do have their nuances. In markets where their buyers are from family-run businesses, for example, it is important to establish your connection through shared family values,” explained Lawand. “Working with corporates, on the other hand, the conversations are often short, sharp, black-and-white and to the point. So understanding your buyer’s background and work habits is important.”

Then there are the practicalities that all travelers, regardless of whether they are doing business or not, need to keep on top of.

“Understanding your markets’ festivals and celebrations can be important when building your promotional program and even for making a market visit. For example, we wouldn’t set appointments for meetings in Australia on Christmas Day,” said Lawand.

Importance of marketing

According to Lawand, marketing needs to be assessed on a case-by- case basis. However, as a general rule, in-store promotions and product placed on cash counters or shelf-ends raises brand awareness extremely effectively.

“In an e-commerce landscape, influencers and champions are a great strategy. Depending on the client, an effective way of providing this promotional support is to offer free- of-charge stock through a shipment, as opposed to giving them cash,” he said.

Lawand emphasised the importance of establishing good business relationships. He said that the key to this is understanding buyers’ backgrounds and key performance indicators; and throughout the negotiation process, continuing to be observant and respectful of buyers’ behaviours and requests.

“Most important is that you deliver on your promises. As they are on the other side of the world, trust is key to keeping this connection strong. A savvy exporter will establish trust from the beginning, and maintain it throughout the entire relationship,” he said.

Stainless steel motors: the choice for the food and beverage industry

With increasing food safety regulations and more recalls making the headlines, Lafert Electric Motors Australia knows the importance of preventing contamination is a top priority for all manufacturers.

Operating a clean production line has never been more important in the food and beverage sector. Prevention of any contamination offers significant savings in time and money, before even starting to think about the damage a product recall could have on an organisation’s brand and reputation.

Having the ability to clean and service equipment in food production the most effective and easy way is essential and can help prevent the risk of product contamination.

One key area where there is high risk of contamination is in the equipment used in food processing and the need to adhere to high standards of sanitary and hygiene across all aspects of the operation.

This is particularly relevant to the motors used on a food production line as food particles often build up in these areas. The motors need to be hosed down regularly, often using high pressure wash downs, in addition caustic cleaning solutions is often used in the cleaning process.

Depending on the materials used for the motors, this cleaning process can cause a serious issue for the equipment, with cleaning solutions eventually corroding parts of the motor as well as the risk of rust and paint flaking off, often leading to contamination.

To decrease the risks of contamination and create the cleanest environment possible, Lafert Electric Motors Australia, one of Australia’s leading suppliers of electric motors and gearboxes, has developed the Tema motor.

The Tema motor is an innovative new motor that is made of 304 grade or 316 grade stainless steel.

The Tema motor IP67 or IP69K rated can be operated and cleaned in high ambient temperatures, high humidity and with water and steam – making it ideal for the food industry. Stainless steel motors have been widely used in the food and beverage industry in the US, with the rest of the world now starting to recognise the benefits and make the switch.

The Tema motor has a specifically designed construction that avoids the use of through or end shield bolts – this makes the outer surface of the motor completely smooth, allowing for easy and thorough cleaning.

A further advantage of a stainless steel motor is that, unlike cast iron or aluminium motors, it will not corrode when hosed down.

The Tema motor was developed specifically with the food industry in mind by a leading electrical engineer in Perth and the assembly of the motor is completely unique. The design of the Tema motor features the drive end shaft fitted with two oil seals, which prevents any water getting in.

The Tema motor is also interchangeable with any other motor and can be supplied to match SEW Eurodrive dimensions – making the upgrade to Tema stainless steel motors easy.

“The Tema motor is easily one of the market leaders for wash down stainless steel motors,” said Morgan Harrington, general manager, Lafert Electric Motors Australia. “The Tema motor is unique in that it is capable of special customisation designs to suit particular customer requirements.

“The Tema motors have proven to be a wonderful success story for the food processing industry and for Lafert Electric Motors Australia.”

With a customisable design, the Tema motor works well when paired with the HydroMec Stainless Steel IP69K gearbox. The gearbox can be mounted to the Tema motor and as it is also stainless steel, it benefits from many of the advantages in cleanliness and maintenance that the Tema motor does – making the two products a perfect pairing for food processing.

With cleanliness being such a critical part of food manufacturing and production, stainless steel motors offer a significant reduction in the risk of contamination as well as a reduction in equipment replacement costs.

Lafert Electric Motors Australia has more than 50 years’ experience providing customised engineered electric motors, with a special focus on industrial automation, energy saving and renewables. The specialist technical staff can determine what product is needed and offer a wide range of options and information.

Lafert Electric Motors Australia is a force in the electric motor market and is committed to focusing on innovation and energy saving. Having serviced the food processing industry for more than 20 years, the company offers expert knowledge and advice.

SS WORMBOX

 

A 200-year journey: Serving the food manufacturer in Australia

With Australian-grown produce now on the march, managing director Vince Di Costanzo explains how MHE-Demag Australia is driving the food and beverage industry forward.

At the forefront of manufacturing growth in Australia, food and beverage production is the guiding light.

The end of 2017 marked 15 months of continual expansion, according
to the Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI), despite a misconceived belief that the industry is in decline.

While it is changing focus – following the off shoring of sectors including automotive assembly and an acceleration towards the age of automation and robotics – one thing remains certain.

The appetite for Australian-grown food products is stronger than ever
– particularly in Asia – and means the distribution of packaged produce doesn’t have plans to go away any time soon.

Ideally positioned as the Pacific Rim’s dual logistics and cranes specialist, MHE-Demag’s industry knowledge is helping the drive from farm to fork.

And its latest technology, including the KBK Crane Construction Kit, is adding value to the production of raw and processed foodstuffs.

Following a journey that brought the German-based cranes specialist Demag halfway around the world to

Australia, it was a stop off in Asia in the last century where it first discovered its new purpose.

“KBK is our light-weight construction kit and is very adaptable to applications within the food industry,” said Vince Di Costanzo, MHE-Demag Australia’s managing director.

“It is used mainly in handling lighter loads – up to a ton or so – though, in the food industry, it can also support loads as low as 50kg.

“The beauty is that it gives room to manipulate the crane’s movements with less manual effort, improving cycle times while ensuring the safety of the machine operator.”
The company turns 200 years old next year. For almost 65 years, it has been based in Australia.

MHE-Demag's GATOR dock leveller - an essential piece in loading bay solutions.
MHE-Demag’s GATOR dock leveller – an essential piece in loading bay solutions.

 

Expanding the business has been no easy feat, however. Introducing new markets in Asia to its own supply chain, the company – formerly known as Demag Cranes and Components
– first sought the services of a distributor already established in that region.

Jebsen and Jessen (J&J), based
in Singapore and Malaysia, has a footprint in Southeast Asia over many generations, and it was in the early 1970s when Demag came calling.

“Although pockets of our manufacturing industry in Australia are moving offshore, we are still consuming those goods and that consumption is only expected to increase,” Di Costanzo said.

“In terms of manufacturing production, that is in decline. However, in terms of logistics, warehousing and transportation of manufactured goods – whether for import or export – that is In 2015, a smart move saw Demag Cranes & Components become MHE-Demag Australia, allowing J&J to own 50 per cent – joining their crane technology with J&J’s logistical nous, including its in-house dock-levelling equipment.

From this marriage of continents, MHE-Demag made its way to Australia.

“It means, in terms of the food industry and those customers we served before, we can do more than simply focus on their factory floor,” Di Costanzo explained.

“We can now assist them in getting the product out of the factory and into the warehouses where they are ultimately distributed from.”

This assistance can be provided by innovative loading bay solutions, tailored to ever-growing logistics challenges in Australia. The key here is MHE-Demag’s Gator – a dock leveller specifically designed for highly demanding operations in Australian warehouses.

Especially in the food and beverage industry, this extension of being further along the value chain allows the company to provide one-stop solutions, both on the factory floor and in the loading bay.

Using nylon wheels instead
of steel, KBK wears cleanly; a feature Di Costanzo insists makes MHE-Demag’s cranes more suited to the sector.

“The KBK Construction Kit
is designed to fit to lightweight structures, which are typically used around food-grade equipment,” he said.

“It is much easier to integrate than a large, overhead-travelling crane, which, due to its design,

wears over time, and when that happens, can cause debris to fall into the foodstuffs and contaminate stock.”

Standards for haulage on Australia’s roads and transport infrastructure are changing, with the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) making amendments to the Chain of Responsibility (CoR), which will hold more manufacturers accountable for freight-related incidents on the road, and not only haulage companies.

MHE-Demag’s cranes and loading bay solutions are supported by German safety standards, which Di Costanzo says are an industry leader worldwide.

“Having that German connection means we have always been ahead of the safety standards required,” he continued, “and that is the case for all of our products”.

“Australia, typically, looks to Europe for the next revision of
the standards. At MHE-Demag, our own engineering manager, Peter Woodward, heads the Crane Standards Committee here in Australia, which allows us to be the pace-setter when it comes to safety, whether that is in manufacturing or logistics.”

Sheep, cheese, vodka and sustainability in Tasmania

Hartshorn Distillery, winner of the Beverage of the Year at the 2017 Food & Beverage Industry Awards, uses a cheese making waste product to create alcoholic beverages. Matthew McDonald writes.

About 15 years ago, Ryan Hartshorn’s family moved from Queensland to southern Tasmania with the idea of establishing a dual wine and sheep-cheese-making business.

As Hartshorn, a director and owner of Grandvewe Cheeses and Hartshorn Distillery told Food & Beverage Industry News, given that nobody in the family had experience in these fields, the move was a gamble. His mother Diane Rae did much of the early work. Among other things, she travelled to Europe to learn from experienced cheese makers.

From the outset, sustainability was a key priority for the business. For example, the original idea involved the sheep doing the job of maintaining (eating) the vegetation between the vines. Unfortunately, the sheep weren’t disciplined enough to limit themselves to grass and destroyed the vines themselves. So the vineyard was abandoned in favour of just the cheesery.

Hartshorn Distillery's Ryan Hartshorn (centre) with his sister Nicole Gilliver (left) and his mother Diane Rae (right).
Hartshorn Distillery’s Ryan Hartshorn (centre) with his sister Nicole Gilliver (left) and his mother Diane Rae (right).

 

 

Then, three years ago, Hartshorn decided to take another gamble. “I started to get a bit sick of the cheese side of the business and wanted to have my own creation. I decided to learn how to distill. Essentially, I was trying to figure out how I could make a distillery relevant to a cheesery and how they could work together,” he said.

The obvious path would have been to make milk liquors, but Hartshorn wanted to try something different. He had heard about a business in Ireland using cow whey (a cheese making by-product) to make alcohol and decided to try something similar with sheep whey.

“I asked the Irish operation how to do it but they wouldn’t tell me,” he said. So he had to work it out for himself.

The process of using lactose (the complex sugar found in whey) to make alcohol is not simple because fermentation requires a basic (not complex) sugar.

The only way to transform the lactose into a basic sugar is to use enzymes to break down its protein molecules. Hartshorn read about some enzymes that might be able to do this. With the help of some food technologists in Melbourne, and by a long process of trial and error, he identified the right enzymes and then started to develop his products.

Today, Hartshorn Distillery makes Sheep Whey Gin, Sheep Whey Vodka (which took out the aforementioned award) and Vanilla Whey Liqueur. After three years of operation, the distillery has now overtaken the cheesery, accounting for about 60 per cent of the overall business.

Experience is crucial

Hartshorn emphasised the fact that, in his case, taking a risk and innovating was not easy. He advises others considering taking such a step to first make sure they have plenty of experience behind them.

“I don’t think I could have done this if I came straight from working for someone else. I’d worked in my business (the cheesery) for 12 or thirteen years before making this leap,” he said. “So I had a pretty good understanding of the market. I wasn’t in the alcohol industry but there are a lot of similar factors involved. I had an idea what the market wanted.

“Basically, if you want to innovate, you need to do your research. You need to make sure you know what’s out there and what’s not out there, then try and fill those gaps.”

There is another unique aspect to Hartshorn Distillery. All its bottles are hand-painted and one-of-a-kind. As Hartshorn explained, nobody has copied this. “Big companies can’t really do it because of the work involved,” he said.

The distillery has grown by an impressive 600 per cent in the last year and, while Hartshorn is currently focusing his energies on keeping on top of this demand, he conceded that he may have to soon start thinking about adding some new buildings to the operation.

“I’ll keep my range the same but I’ll keep changing the bottle design. I want to do more collector items,” said Hartshorn.

Whatever happens, sustainability will remain important to the business. “We’ve been trying to use our waste almost from the beginning. We do a few other little lesser-known products like making fudge from whey,” he said. “We also make some of our older sheep into a sausage that we sell through our cheesery. And we make a fruit paste that goes with our cheese made from the waste of wine making.”

For more information on the Awards, or to get involved for 2018, click here.

Hartshorn Distillery’s Ryan Hartshorn makes vodka and gin from sheep whey, a cheese making by-product.
Hartshorn Distillery’s Ryan Hartshorn makes vodka and gin from sheep whey, a cheese making by-product.

 

In search of environmentally friendly shopping bags

Free plastic carrier bags will disappear from Australia’s two largest supermarkets in 2018. There are many arguments for and against this change, as it is important to look at the all environmental impacts of their alternatives. Dr Carol Kilcullen-Lawrence writes.

Free plastic carrier bags are often referred to as single use; however, this doesn’t take into account their downstream use as bin liners for example. Studies show that, in South Australia when this change occurred, sales of bags for refuse massively increased. In many cases, these bin liners are heavier than carrier bags, so more plastic reaches landfill. Additionally, if light-weight supermarket bags are replaced with thicker bags that customers pay a small fee for, while these are designed to be reusable for a while, if they eventually end up as bin liners the negative environmental impact is even greater.

In Europe they have taken some steps to avoid this use of the sturdier bags for refuse, by describing them as a ‘Bag for Life’ so when they are no longer suitable for carrying groceries, they can be returned to the supermarket for recycling and replaced with a new one free of charge. It’s important to point out however that the colourful branding with supermarket logos etc. provides another negative environmental impact compared to plain light- weight bags.

Many would be surprised at the findings when sustainability of different carrier bags is assessed throughout their full lifecycle. A common reaction is to assume paper bags have the lowest environmental impact. In fact, although studies vary, all agree that paper bags have higher or equal environmental impact (depending upon which specific impact is being measured) as light- weight plastic bags and fabric reusable bags. Paper is only more favourable if measuring eutrophication, as manufacturing and recycling paper carrier bags has a lower impact on our waterways in terms of release of nutrients. In considering other types of environmental impact, resource use, energy and greenhouse gas production, the most favourable carrier bags are light-weight plastic and reusable fabric bags.

Looking more closely at reusable fabric bags, focus clearly needs to shift to how many times they are actually reused. To ensure their impact remains the most favourable they must be reused at least 100 times, with some analysis claiming this can be as high as 175 times. This varies depending on their actual composition, be it PP, PET, cotton or hemp and the like. Many are not sturdy enough to last the distance, in terms of stitching etc. Some customers also raise concerns about hygiene and no studies have taken into account the impacts of regularly washing bags.

While not as numerous as supermarket bags, it would be good to see investigations into other types of free shopping bags at retail outlets. The formats of these are wide and variable – high quality, heavy- weight, paper and plastic – many with elaborate ribbon and cord handles so that when customers recycle them, they are unlikely to deconstruct them into separate components that are compatible with recycling together.

Many DIY stores are giving customers access to cardboard packaging that their goods have been delivered to the store in. This was popular for groceries in many parts of the world years ago. While this could be acceptable to many customers, space is premium in supermarkets and this may not fit with the in-store image large chains want to portray.

Once light-weight carrier bags are gone, will the focus shift to the smaller light-weight grocery bags used for customers to select their own loose produce? Increasingly, there are options emerging to buy fabric reusable versions of these and in reality they could themselves be reused several times as they are not subject to the stresses put on carrier bags.

There are so many factors that come into play when assessing which carrier bags are truly best for the environment. An Australia-wide approach is more likely to achieve the best outcome, rather than individual states and supermarket chains making random decisions. Light-weight plastic carrier bags are not necessarily the worst environmental option, so perhaps the focus needs to move to offering customers effective ways to recycle them. Essentially, their composition is almost identical to many soft plastics used to package all types of products used in the home, and courier bags from online shopping. We shouldn’t accept that these are destined for landfill. Light-weight plastic carrier bags can be diverted into schemes that are emerging for such household waste.

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Dr Carol Kilcullen-Lawrence FAIP PhD is National President of the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP). 

Teff: from ancient grain to gluten-free food products

Teff (Eragrostis tef) is the world’s smallest grain and one of the oldest plants, originating in Ethiopia at least 5000 years ago. It is a major food crop in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Outside Ethiopia, teff is grown in Nevada and Idaho, USA, with about 1,200 acres grown each year. Apart from the McNaul family, it has been grown in Australia in experimental quantities in areas of Tasmania and around Tamworth in northern New South Wales.

Teff is a gluten-free wholegrain and as such it has the potential to become in high demand as suitable for consumption by gluten intolerant and health conscious consumers.

Teff’s nutritional content

The scientific literature shows that teff is highly nutritious. Its protein content typically ranges from 8.7 to 11 per cent, similar to wheat, and it has a good balance of amino acids.

Teff flour has a high fibre content (8 per cent dry basis) – several times higher than wheat and rice, higher than sorghum, lower than oat and rye. It also contains the fermentable fibre, resistant starch.

The high fibre content is thanks to its small size. The bran and germ aren’t separated during the milling process thus it’s always consumed in wholegrain form.

Teff is also a good source of minerals and vitamins. It’s high in iron – around two or three times higher than wheat, barley and sorghum. It is also high in calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc and magnesium. Teff presents in various colours, from white to brown, which is due to the high content of phenolic compounds.

Outback Harvest and product development

Rice has been the traditional crop for NSW Riverina farmers, son Fraser and father Shane McNaul, and they also grow corn and a variety of winter cereals and legumes. But they decided a couple of years ago they needed to diversify their cropping program to become more sustainable and innovative.

The agriculturally rich and diverse Riverina, with its warm to hot climate and ample water supply, makes their farm the perfect place to grow the ancient grain emerging onto the Australian market, teff.

The McNauls planted two varieties of teff, brown and ivory, three years ago. They started a company, Outback Harvest, and approached CSIRO and Food Innovation Australia Ltd (FIAL) to help them develop Australian-grown, gluten-free teff baked goods and extruded snacks that could bring this nutritious grain into the mainstream western palette.

“Without CSIRO and FIAL all we’d have been able to do would be a grain and a flour product,” Fraser said.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do the value-added products so in the long term we’re vertically integrating and that’s helping us out as farmers.”

Fraser has moved to Melbourne to concentrate on developing packaging, marketing and distributing the first retail products, which have been endorsed as gluten-free by Coeliac Australia and Coeliac New Zealand.

Food applications and new markets

Teff flour is traditionally used to make injera (fermented flat bread), kitta (sweet flat bread), chibito (unleavened kitta in balls) and anebabro (double layered kitta).

Unlike flat breads, because gluten is essential to form the spongy texture of baked leavened bread, developing acceptable bread texture with gluten-free flours is an on-going challenge for food technologists. Bread high in teff flour appears to be no exception. Further research into thickening agents or structural ingredients would be needed to successfully develop a gluten-free bread with a high proportion of teff flour.

Teff grain and flour are being imported to the US, Europe and Australia from Ethiopia into the health food store and supermarket sectors and used for making biscuits, cakes, flat breads and muffins in the home. Brown teff produces a darker coloured flour that has a chocolate-like look and taste to it and so is ideally suited to a product like muffins. The ivory teff produces lighter coloured flour with a nutty flavour and is perfect for something like pancakes.

Value-added teff products such as ready-to-eat or convenience foods for retail markets or at commercial scale are emerging. At the time these products were under development for Outback Harvest, there were no others on the market in Australia, although some have come on since.

Owing to its documented nutritional properties, potential new markets for teff could include specialty products for weight management and high nutrient content products like baby food, traditional medicines or supplements. 

What CSIRO did

The aims of this work were to demonstrate it was possible to prototype several new gluten-free products using teff as the main ingredient, and to investigate the impact of teff flour on the texture, colour and flavour of new products. CSIRO developed muffin premixes, bread and a crunchy extruded ball, which has potential as a new snack product or breakfast cereal. The McNauls have just commercialised the muffin premix and launched it onto the retail and wholesale health food sector nationally, and in cafés in Melbourne, Geelong and the Surf Coast in Victoria. Other products CSIRO developed are currently being patented.

“There’s been a lot of interest in the products because they’re Australian-grown and certified gluten-free,’ Fraser said.

“With CSIRO’s expertise in food innovation and new product development, and their facilities and expertise helped make it all happen,” Fraser said.

“We’re also looking at other value adding opportunities like snack bars, tortillas and flat breads, and exporting to Asia.”

 

From the boardroom to the farm

Last year the Food & Beverage Industry Awards introduced a number of new categories. One of these was the Paddock to Plate award, won by El Cielo.

The Food & Beverage Industry Awards’ Paddock to Plate category celebrates companies that source their product direct from the producer and maintain freshness while meeting a consumer demand, such as longer shelf life and/or ease of preparation and cooking.

The winner of the award last year, sponsored by Chr. Hansen, was El Cielo for its White Corn Tortillas, Totopos and Tostaditas.

As Cesar Duran (pictured), managing director of El Cielo told Food & Beverage Industry News, putting the Paddock to Plate philosophy into practice was no easy task.

“It’s a continuing work in progress. You’re bringing together two worlds which are very different. The language is very different; the expectations are very different,” he said. “It took a lot of communication, a lot of understanding and a lot of time to get everybody [farmers, manufacturers and retailers] on the same page.”

Despite the difficulties, the Paddock to Plate dream started to come to fruition in 2016 when the company started to grow and use its own white corn in northern NSW.

In conjunction with the farm, extensive research and planning was undertaken in order to establish the best location for growing high-quality white corn in Australia. This also required extensive planning with regards to logistics and ensuring the white corn would reach the production facility fresh.

Upgrades and development of processing machinery were required in order to facilitate the production of the products, while providing the fresh products to restaurants (including El Sabor) meant the dream was realised. In order to maintain freshness, the grain is harvested in NSW, then immediately transported to a production facility in Port Melbourne for processing. The products are then delivered directly to restaurants and independent retailers for sale.

The end result impressed the judges of the aforementioned awards. “El Cielo has taken the concept of paddock to plate one step further – deciding to grow the corn themselves to ensure the best quality for the product. Their impressive supply chain sees them grow the corn, process it in their Port Melbourne facility and then deliver direct to restaurants as a fresh product,” they commented.

Does El Cielo have any advice for businesses hoping to follow in its footsteps?

“The hardest bit is to develop trust and understanding. The advice I would give them would be to come down from the boardroom and be closer to where ingredients come from,” said Duran. “It’s about relationships and getting off our high horses in the cities to actually go to the farms and see where food comes from.”

Founded in 2012, El Cielo (which translates as ‘The Heaven’) employs over 20 people. The company was established with the aim of promoting ‘The True Taste of Mexico’, offering the flavours of traditional Mexican cuisine.

According to Duran, the company plans to grow into 2018. “Soon we’re launching a range of full-flavoured tortillas. Also we’ll continue to develop our Mexican range next year. We have new salsas and new products coming,” he said.

While at this stage only the company’s corn products (White Corn Tortillas, White Corn Totopos – corn chips, and Tostaditas) are ‘Paddock to Plate’, all other products use elements of the philosophy.

According to Duran, the company intends to maintain close relationships with those on the land. “We need to be more grateful to farmers. We should probably be more grateful to farmers than doctors.” he said.

Click here for more information on the Food & Beverage Industry Awards.

Sage partners with Nord over waste

Container Deposit Systems Australia (CDSA) approached SAGE Automation with an unusual automation challenge. Recent environmental legislation has seen many recycling plants facing the same problem – reduced efficiencies and increased costs thanks to the purchase of an expensive sorting machine from Europe, coupled with expensive, unreliable labour.

With the machine using barcodes to sort, waste was of major concern as damaged products could not be read. NSW Environmental Protection Authority’s “Return and Earn” scheme has come under fire for accepting only perfect rubbish. The “Return and Earn” website says “containers should be empty, uncrushed, unbroken and have the original label attached”. This is so that each container’s barcode can be scanned. All of these factors had put a strain on their customer satisfaction.

At the core of its business, CDSA looks to optimise recycling facilities through decades of experience. CDSA harnesses technology to improve productivity within recycling depot facilities where the manual handling of materials is still prominent.

“CDSA works with current and prospective operators of recycling facilities seeking to grow businesses and sets best practice in the industry. We position recycling facilities to realise significant productivity gains, improved customer relationships and highly secure and auditable product management” says Brett Duncanson, Executive Chairman of CDSA.

Brett continues: “Priding ourselves on customer satisfaction, the issues that we were facing was hindering our business and we were turning customers away rather than make them want to take on the task of recycling and collecting money”.

Understanding the issues that CDSA was facing, SAGE Automation worked closely with automation partners such as leading drive technology supplier, NORD DRIVESYSTEMS to improve efficiencies through immaculate accuracy via a prototype. SAGE Automation developed a range of counting and sensing technologies to accurately determine the container types being retained – even when containers were not in their original condition. What’s more, answering to the calls for IoT technology, the system provides valuable data which is delivered into the cloud and used for reporting.

At the heart of the machine was the vision system which was provided by UniSA. The camera uses an algorithm to identify what each item is and sorts them into the correct skid. This includes not just identifying cans and bottles, but also colour.

Paul Johnson (pictured), General Manager of Operations at SAGE Automation says that by providing customised, innovative solutions, SAGE looks at developing commercially viable solutions for OEMs. “SAGE incorporates various component suppliers into an integrated solution for customers. The challenge with CDSA’s request was that the plant was already operational and customer required that the solution be installed easily and very quickly on-site. It also had to require minimal maintenance and provide intelligence about the facility operations.”

Johnson continues: “We looked for ways simplify the installation. Five skids with twenty six conveyors needed to be installed within a day so we looked to a ‘plug and play’ solution to get it up and running as fast as possible”.

A distributed drive solution was used to achieve the brief. It required a 240V drive which used EtherCAT and could be Beckhoff integrated. SAGE partnered with leading drive manufacturer, NORD DRIVESYSTEMS who were the only provider who could provide this unique solution.

“We hadn’t worked with NORD previously and we were really impressed with the way that the team listened to what we wanted. They understood our needs and their engineering team configured the unit to ensure seamless integration with Beckhoff – literally overnight!” says Paul.

“The solution was exactly what we wanted and the local stockholding, price point and engineering expertise sealed the deal. The products used were of the highest quality and latest technology. The motor gearbox drive is distributed so that inverter sits on top the gearbox and it is neatly daisy chained together” comments Paul.

In the end SAGE Automation was able to install 26 conveyors with five skids in just one day.

With the second prototype underway and recognising the formation of what hopes to be a fruitful and strengthened partnership, Nord Drivesystems sales manager for the region, Vinod Pillai, looks forward to more exciting projects with SAGE Automation. “It’s an honour to be associated with a South Australian-founded company such as SAGE Automation. SAGE is known across the industry for its expertise and quality, and we hope that this is the beginning of a very successful partnership.”

“Nord’s decentralised solution looks to modular assembly for ease and reduced downtime during component failure. It also offers a decentralised inverter which is economical and robust. The site did not have access to three phase power and as such, the project made use of a Nordac base – a single phase input supply option for 0.25 – 1.5kW,” said Pillai.

With their development team NORD managed to engineer plug connector solutions for both power supply and EtherCAT connection.

“In keeping the footprint compact, the Nordac base offers assembly of an internal EtherCAT field bus card. The flexibility of being able to assemble dual plugs on the Nordac Base for both power supply connection as well as M12 connectors that enabled field bus communication, in turn allowed for simple daisy chain topology to be realised for the inverter modules” he concludes.

For Duncanson it is all about the war on waste. The new development comes just ahead of the national legislation roll out of new Government Recycling Program. It places CDSA in the fortunate position of being able to help recycling plants to be up and running and ready for the new program in no time.

“We are more than pleased with the solution and are currently busy with the second prototype,” says Brett. “What we do is extremely important to both our customers and the environment. The solution supplied by SAGE Automation and its partners will make a big difference to our customers by helping to improve productivity

CSIRO gene silencing technology continues to benefit agriculture worldwide

RNA interference (RNAi), a technology patented by the CSIRO, has given the world potatoes that don’t go brown, animal feed that’s easier to digest, safflower with high oil content and more.

Global forestry company, FuturaGene is the latest of public and privately funded organisations worldwide to license the technology which enables scientists to reduce or switch off the activity of single genes, with enormous benefits, especially in agriculture.

CSIRO has provided research materials to 3700 laboratories around the world and has issued more than 30 research and commercial licenses for RNAi to-date.

FuturaGene, a leader in plant genetic research and development for sustainable plantation forestry, will utilise RNAi technology to develop more resilient forestry crop varieties, primarily eucalyptus and poplar.

Technologies for preserving and enhancing yield in renewable plantations are an imperative for meeting growing wood demand in the face of climate change and increasing pest and disease threats, while preserving natural forests.

Other uses of RNAi technology include developing potatoes that don’t go brown, animal feed that’s easier to digest and an improved industrial oil.

Senior Research Scientist with CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Ming-Bo Wang, was one of the scientists involved in RNAi’s development in the mid-1990s, and together with colleague Peter Waterhouse, received the 2007 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science for the work.

“One of the projects we were working on at the time was with the potato chip industry; we were trying to develop a virus resistant potato,” Dr Wang said.

“We discovered that when plants are attacked by viruses they use double-stranded RNA to mount a counter-attack.

“We realised we could make use of this ‘virus immune’ response to develop a mechanism that would stop individual genes from passing on information.

“At first we didn’t think much of it but when we realised we’d uncovered a fundamental mechanism for silencing genes, we knew there would be widespread applications.”

The RNAi mechanism was used by US company, Simplot to develop the “Innate” potatoes which bruise less than other potato varieties.

The potatoes also produce less acrylamide, a chemical which can accumulate in starchy foods such as potatoes when they are cooked at high temperatures.

Simplot is hopeful non-browning potatoes will reduce the costly and environmentally damaging issue of waste in the industry.

Forage Genetics has licensed RNAi to develop an animal feed that is more easily digested.

Alfalfa (or lucerne) is an important source of cattle feed in many countries.

One major challenge for farmers is that if harvested late, alfalfa can contain high levels of lignin, the fibrous material that is important for binding cells, fibres and vessels in plants.

Animals are unable to digest lignin.

HarvXtra alfalfa has up to 20 per cent less lignin, making it much more digestible for cattle. It can also be harvested seven to 10 days late without sacrificing quality.

CSIRO itself has made use of RNAi to develop a safflower seed oil that contains over 93 per cent oleic acid, a valuable component in industrial chemicals and lubricants.

Super high oleic oil safflower is being commercialised by GO Resources.

Dr Wang said that while there are more recent gene editing tools, RNAi will have a major role to play for many years to come because of its ability to silence multiple genes at the same time and tone down the expression of essential genes without killing a plant.

He said that CSIRO was continually developing new tools, technologies and techniques to improve RNAi delivery, potency and ease of use.

 

 

 

 

Water analysis instruments

Thermo Scientific Orion and Thermo Scientific AquaSensors products are well-known around the world for excellence in water and liquid analysis in drinking water, wastewater treatment, food and beverage manufacturing, and elsewhere.

The Orion and AquaSensors product lines include a full range of complementary liquid sensing and measurement products that include:

  • Portable and benchtop pH, ISE, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen measurement
  • Laboratory electrodes and sensors for sampling pH, ISE, dissolved oxygen, ORP, conductivity, and temperature
  • Online process analyzers and sensors for measuring pH, conductivity, ORP, dissolved oxygen, dissolved ozone, chlorine, turbidity, sodium, chloride, silica, fluoride, and calcium

The Thermo Scientific Orion product line is well-known around the world for excellence in water and liquid analysis. These meters, electrodes, buffers, standards, and solutions are designed for a number of applications and industries.

Thermo Scientific Orion 2111LL Low Level Sodium Analyzer protects your turbine against destructive sodium levels finding applications in Power Plants, Wastewater Treatment Plant and Process Water Analysis.

 

Total Tips – design and building advice for food & beverage makers

Welcome to Total Tips, our new regular column by plant building and design provider, Total Construction. Over the coming months, we will hear from this industry leader about how to ensure businesses have well designed, well-functioning manufacturing facilities that give them the best chance to prosper.

TIP 1. WHEN SELECTING NEW PREMISES, ENSURE YOU CHOOSE SOMEWHERE WITH SUFFICIENT UTILITY SERVICES

Selecting new premises is a big step for any food manufacturer. Think about the last time you moved house and (depending on the size of your business) multiply the effort involved several times over.

If the physical logistics involved in uprooting plant, machinery, furniture, IT equipment (plus employees) is enormous; the amount of planning involved can be even more daunting.

Price is the obvious consideration. There is no point in relocating to a facility your business can’t afford. Digging a financial hole that you have no chance of getting out of is never a good move.

Also, as in the residential market, “Location, Location” is a good philosophy to follow. Food and beverage manufacturers need to locate their plants in the right place. The right place, that is, in terms of transport (be it by road, rail or air); as well as easy access to supply chains and logistics. And, of course, they need to be easily accessible by the people who actually keep the business going, employees.

The importance of utilities
However, when choosing new premises, there is one important consideration businesses often overlook. It is important to find somewhere that includes a sufficient, reliable supply of basic utilities (electricity, gas, water), not just for today but for the future.

Far too often, Total Construction sees examples of businesses who neglect to include this in their relocation check list. Then, sure enough, when they move they find they don’t have the utilities they need to run their operations. After the move is made is too late to realise you need more power or gas.

Increasing energy supply is not always an easy thing to do. The task of upping the power supply may involve the creation of a new substation. Even in industrial areas, this does not happen overnight. We have seen cases where the installation takes as long as eight months. On top of the high costs and planning involved, this is bad news for any business.

Planning & estimating future utility needs
When planning a move, businesses should study past gas and electricity bills to establish average usage. However, we recommend adding a further 20 per cent to this figure to allow for future growth. Any figure beyond that mark will likely be years down the track and can be addressed at that later date.

In our experience, many businesses who don’t factor in their energy requirements actually find that their “dream facilities” don’t have sufficient utilities to support them into the future.

In many cases, this comes down to who were the previous tenants. It’s important to keep in mind that, even though they are located in industrial areas, many buildings have never housed manufacturing businesses. Many were used as warehouses and therefore didn’t require anything like the amount of electricity or gas that manufacturers need.

While they may tick all the boxes in terms of price, location and size, they may not actually have what it takes to get your business running today, let alone grow into the future.

Setting the standard in traceability

Food safety scares and product recalls are unfortunate facts of life in the food sector. GS1 Australia provides the standards to enable organisations to effectively keep track of where our food comes from and help implement recalls quickly and efficiently.

In China back in 2008, six babies died and thousands more became seriously ill after consuming infant formula tainted with melamine, a chemical used to make dinnerware, laminates, flooring and the like.

On top of the horrendous human cost, the scandal significantly damaged China’s food industry. Imports of Chinese dairy products were banned in many countries and, as the huge demand for Australian infant formula in China illustrates, the reputation of Chinese formula producers has yet to fully recover.

The lessons here are obvious. Food safety is the top priority for food and beverage manufacturers and recalls are to be avoided. When they do occur, they need to be implemented and resolved as quickly as possible.

In large part, this comes down to traceability.

As Peter Chambers, head of supply chain improvement services at GS1 Australia told Food & Beverage Industry News, increased consumer awareness coupled with “an ever increasing channel called the Internet” mean that traceability has become flavour of the month.

“The time is right to talk about traceability, not just in food but in all areas. Anywhere where people can get injured, get sick or die, traceability is very important,” said Chambers.

Supply chain complexity
Chambers explained that true traceability is the ultimate goal. “This involves the ability to exchange information with all the actors up and down your supply chain community. Once this occurs, information of the whereabouts of affected product can be interrogated at any time,” he said.

In the real world, however, the complexity of the food supply chain makes this difficult.

“The supply chain comprises many different stages or types of organisations (or actors) who often either distribute or manufacture product that is sold to consumers,” saidChambers.

So, when food safety issues do arise, recalls can be complicated because the products involved have been widely dispersed.

On top of that, he said, different actors use a range of processes and systems to record production information. Data capture is typically manual and either stored in private ERP systems, in spreadsheets or paper- based recording systems.

“While traceability exists, it is mostly very disjointed and requires manual intervention and interpretation of data. In the case of a recall, the process of notification, product identification and so on can take days, if not weeks,” said Chambers. “The opportunity exists to improve both the notification and recall process and reduce times and accuracy of recalled products significantly.”

Chambers also pointed out that, traditionally, there has only been limited information available from each step in the supply chain.

“We now have the ability to add event data – information starting with the transformation of raw materials and produce into commercial product and the aggregation and de-aggregation, as well as the physical whereabouts as it moves though the supply chain to point of sale,” he said.

This data includes the what, where, when and how of supply chain events. It provides visibility at each point up and down the chain.

Standards are important
“GS1 is a global standards organisation. Our role is to help companies and industries collaborate in areas where a common standard, language or solution would help every participant achieve a better outcome,” said Chambers.

“Having quality traceability and product recall capabilities are critical areas that can assist any organisation deliver product safely to consumers.”

GS1 Australia provides a range of training and education services to organisations in areas such as item identification, data capture, traceability, to name a few. The company’s GS1 system of standards provides global unique identification keys for products, locations, shipments, assets, documents and so on.

On top of that, the organisation recently released a new updated version of its Global Traceability Framework to help industries and businesses implement traceability solutions across supply chains.

“Because there are major capability and even requirement differences between sectors, we are now preparing additional sector based guidelines on how to apply the framework. For example, the fruit and vegetable sector is vastly different to beef which, in turn, is different to consumer packaged food,” said Chambers.

Recall portal
One of the key benefits of having a strong traceability system involves a company’s preparedness to conduct a product recall or withdrawal. Identification of the affected product is only one part of this process.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s (FSANZ) Food Industry Recall Protocol outlines the legal requirements and responsibilities of food businesses with regard to product recalls and also offers advice and assistance in this area.

In 2011, GS1 Australia launched GS1 Recall (formerly GS1 Recallnet), a portal developed in collaboration with FSANZ, as well as the Australian Food and Grocery Council, (AFGC), the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), national retailers and a number of local and international food and grocery manufacturers.

According to Chambers, the portal is a community based mechanism intended to improve the communication between the two main stakeholders in recalls, namely the initiator or sponsor of a recall or withdrawal notice and recipient organisations (wholesalers/distributors, retailers, hospital networks, etc.).

The aim of the portal is to facilitate the identification and potential quarantine of affected goods as quickly as possible. It’s the link between identifying the affected product and removing it accurately.

“We are quite excited about the growth of ‘Recall’. We have well over 600 subscribers across food and beverages, general merchandise and healthcare and that is growing at 25 per cent per annum.

“This involves many major recipients including the supermarket giants, smaller grocery providers, and hospital networks, as well as many food production and distribution companies,” said Chambers, adding that food relief organisation, Foodbank is one interesting recent addition to the portal.

New technologies
Blockchain (the technology used in the crypto-currency, Bitcoin) has been much discussed of late. Because it allows users in a network to share information without it first passing through a server, it has potential for implementation in the food supply chain.

The hope is that it will help overcome the problem of data fragmentation and provide the data integrity needed to not only carry out recalls, but also prevent fraud.

Blockchain purely addresses the security of exchange of information, particularly between anonymous parties, while GS1 is more concerned with the standardisation of information within the blockchain.

Nevertheless, recognising the importance of the technology within this space, the organisation recently announced a collaboration with IBM and Microsoft to leverage GS1 standards in their enterprise blockchain applications for supply chain clients.

There are also other new technologies on the way. For example, GS1 Australia has developed a Visibility Sandpit solution that makes it possible to trial a community- based network solution that captures traceability event data at each point in the nominated supply chain using the GS1 EPCIS standards. EPCIS (Electronic Product Code Information Services) is a GS1 standard that enables trading partners to share information about the physical movement and status of products as they travel throughout the supply chain – from business to business and ultimately to consumers. According to John Szabo, manager – consulting at GS1 Australia, this will enable communities to cost effectively evaluate what does and doesn’t work in proposed traceability solutions.

He added that the organisation also provided standards for Radio Frequency ID (RFID) technology that can help capture product IDs at each point in the supply chain without direct line of sight.

“There are developments for more commercial use of RFID in food and grocery, particularly with meat which is a high end item. The higher the value and the higher level of packaging, the more cost effective the RFID solution becomes. Active tags also enable additional data to be captured such as the temperature variances suffered en route. RFID will also help traceability solutions which tie into visibility and event data. It is much better to track and trace a product,” said Szabo.

“There are a number of ‘newer’ data carriers (bar codes) that have been introduced that allow these data carriers to include additional information such as batch numbers, expiry dates and so on. One of these barcodes, GS1 DataBar, will allow the capture of batch information at point of sale in the near future. Being trialled by major supermarket chains for use with loose fruit, this has demonstrated significant benefits over the current identification,” added Szabo.

Chambers pointed out that coordinating complex supply chains is difficult and stressed that true and effective traceability requires the full participation of everybody in the chain.

“Use of global standards facilitates that adoption but at the end of the day it comes down to the preparedness of each stakeholder to understand the change, see the benefits both for them and for the greater good, and want to participate,” he said.

Still, where this is achieved, it is now possible to cut recall notification times from days or weeks down to minutes, and more importantly, the safety of the end consumer or patient is enhanced.

Think local, act global

In September, Adelaide-based HMPS was named winner at the Impact Awards 2017, an event that recognises companies that assist with the globalisation of the South Australian economy. Read more

Environmentally friendly, cost saving hot water solutions

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Air-Conditioners Australia has released an innovative sanitary hot water solution that addresses two of the biggest issues facing manufacturers, sustainability and energy costs.

Given its use in everything from plant wash downs to pasteurisation, access to a reliable hot water supply is a must-have for many food and beverage manufacturers. The problem is, the traditional means of producing readily available water has been both expensive and environmentally unfriendly.

In response to this, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Air-Conditioners Australia (MHIAA) has released the Q-ton – a highly efficient, air-to-water hot water solution which utilises CO2 gas as a refrigerant. According to the company, the unit uses a safe, natural and environmentally responsible refrigerant. This has natural accruing properties that give the Q-ton advantages over conventional refrigerant heat pumps.

MHIAA describes it as a breakthrough in terms of both sustainability and reduced running costs.

Suitable for use by food processors, distillers and other manufacturers, the unit features a coil of cold refrigerant that absorbs heat from the outside air, as well as the world’s first two-stage compressor (combining state-of-the-art rotary and scroll technology).

A hot water solution with high efficiency rates and low carbon emissions, the Q-ton delivers outstanding performance as a solution based product. The product recovers heat energy from the air and can perform in extremely cold temperatures (down to -25°C).

“Q-ton supplies hot water from 60°C to 90°C at 100 per cent capacity at an outdoor temperature down to -7°C and will continue to produce hot water down to -25°C,” Trent Miller, Air-to-Water Manager for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Air-Conditioners Australia, told Food & Beverage Industry News.

Essentially, the pump forces air through an evaporator that contains CO2. The heat in the air is then passed through the evaporator before being absorbed by the CO2. The refrigerant is circulated in the system via the compressor causing its temperature to rise as it passes through the compressor and a heat exchanger. This heat is then transferred to the passing water before being delivered into the storage tank.

The Q-ton produces hot water at off peak electricity times and stores it in a tank for daytime use, offering a large cost saving for operators and is considered a direct replacement for boiler systems as it controls the water supply and storage temperature as well as the output capacity.

According to Miller, it offers a number of important advantages compared to the conventional alternatives.

“When you use a normal hot water solution, the conventional refrigerant can’t achieve the high temperatures of hot water. Furthermore the conventional alternatives cannot perform in lower temperatures and require the use of an electric element in heating,” he said.

Miller explained that, before the arrival of the Q-ton, there was no way for such units to manage highly compressed gasses. “The CO2 in the Q-ton has a resting temperature of about 5500 kPa while a conventional refrigerant may only have a couple of hundred. As soon as the compressor starts up, we will be getting pressures of up to 12000 kPa which is a lot of energy,” he said.

Heat pumps are rated by their Coefficient of Performance (COP), which is the ratio of the energy output over the energy input. The higher the COP ratio, the more efficient the unit. The Q-ton boasts an industry-leading COP of 4.3. According to Miller, depending on the application, that figure can be even higher.

“In a distillery in Tasmania, the Q-ton was installed instead of their originally planned electric line heater because of the projected energy savings and proven COP that the Q-ton gives. The 4.3 COP is actually a conservative estimate that is based on the standards in Japan where the ambient temperature of the water is much lower,” he said.

“In warmer climates like say Cairns, depending on the incoming water’s ambient temperature, it could require a lot less energy to heat and the COP could be a 5 or 6.”

Improved sustainability

The innovative hot water solution also offers significant environmental benefits.

“Because we are not using conventional refrigerants, we are eliminating the emission of hydrocarbons which can damage the atmosphere. This is the main reason why we should be using natural refrigerants,” said Miller. The Q-ton has been rated as having Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) of zero.
Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 9.09.23 AM

Miller explained that, as a by-product of the refrigeration process, the unit simultaneously produces cool air. Manufacturers can take further advantage by using both to their benefit.

“If you had an abattoir you could mount the units in the cool rooms. Each unit has 20kW of cooled air. So if you had five units there’s 100kW of cold air coming off the top of it,” he said.

For example, you can produce hot water to perform plant wash downs while, at the same time, using the cooled air to refrigerate your cool areas and keep product fresh.

Safety and predictive maintenance

Miller pointed out that safety is another key selling point for the system. “The refrigerant charge is only 8.5kPa per unit which is roughly what’s in a fire extinguisher. It’s a very small charge. Safety wise, it gives businesses a lot of control over their hot water,” he said.

For example, where businesses want to reduce the chances of Legionella they need to heat water to 90°C.

“Rather than keeping everything heated to 90 degrees all the time, they can elevate the cycle, run it to that heat, and then come back down to something that’s safer to work with. Unlike a gas boiler it ramps up then ramps down. Normally people set it and forget it,” said Miller.

“We’ve got a touch screen remote or you can do it remotely through your computer and change the temperature to within 0.5 of a degree so that’s really going to change how people work with hot water.”

This remote monitoring capability, combined with inbuilt sensors within the unit, allows operators to oversee the operation of the unit system as well gather a lot of useful data such as the amount of hot water produced and energy used on a per day basis.

“With this information, customers can then have more visibility on how efficiently they are running their manufacturing processes in, let’s say, an abattoir or a dairy plant,” said Miller.

The fact they can use the data to deliver predictive maintenance programs is another reason the unit represents a step forward in heat pump technology and can help businesses looking to increase operation efficiency and improve their bottom lines.

While Miller conceded there is a competitor in this space, he pointed out that those are larger units than the Q-ton.

“We have a unit that can be modulated together. The versatility of our unit and our ability to increase the capacity size required for the job means that users have more control over the system. Other systems tend to have larger size units which do not allow for modulated flexibility within the product,” said Miller.

He explained that this, in combination with the company’s rich history in variable flow refrigerant technology (air-to-water) found in the VRF systems, gives the Q-ton system the edge in the market in providing a sanitary hot water solution to commercial spaces.

“With the Q-ton it’s not a split system, it’s all self-contained. You’ve got no one welding in the system. It’s all water in, and water out. That means we’ll get a lot longer run hours and a lot longer design life out of ours just because there’s no interaction with the refrigerant circuit from the tradesmen. It comes pre-set,” said Miller.