Using water wisely in the food sector

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If Australia is to continue its agricultural tradition and also take advantage of future food opportunities, we can’t afford to waste our natural resources. As Matthew McDonald reports, Xylem Water Solutions can help make sure we don’t.

According to the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, Australia produces three times the amount of food we need to sustain our population. Quite a feat for the driest continent on Earth, in large part this can be attributed to how we use that most important natural resource, water.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics state that in 2014-15 agriculture was far and away the biggest consumer of water in Australia. The sector accounted for 10,410 gigalitres or 59.9 per cent of all water consumed. Next on the list was water supply, sewerage and drainage services at 2,163 gigalitres (12.4 per cent).

For the same period, Australian households consumed 1,852 gigalitres (10.7 per cent) of all water, while manufacturing accounted for 595 gigalitres (3.4 per cent) of water consumed.

Things are looking up for Australian food. The rise of the Asian middle class, combined with recently-signed free trade agreements and our “clean, green” image overseas mean that demand for our food is growing.

However, at the same time, our own population growth and the uncertainties of climate change mean that it won’t be all smooth sailing for farmers and food makers. If we are to fully capitalise on future opportunities, we are going to have to use water wisely.

Xylem Water Solutions

Jim Athanas, managing director Oceania Xylem Water Solutions, knows something about wise water usage. “That’s our ultimate purpose and goes to our tag line which is ‘Let’s solve water’,” he told Food & Beverage Industry News.

US-headquartered Xylem was created five and a half years ago as a spinoff of ITT, a manufacturer of highly engineered, critical components and customised technology solutions for the energy, transportation and industrial markets. The company is made up of about 30 brands, some of which have been around for 50-plus years, which share a focus on water management solutions across a range of industries.

“The end game of what we do is to build a sustainable world. Our commitment is that we care more,” said Athanas. “We care more for our people; we care more for our customers; we care about doing things sustainably through commercial excellence. We look at being innovative and creative and we also want to enrich our environment by creating sustainable communities.”

The Lowara GHV series booster sets are fully automatic booster sets for water supply.
The Lowara GHV series booster sets are fully automatic booster sets for water supply.

 

 

Focusing on food and beverages, he explained that the company provides water management solutions for all stages of the production process.

“From the farm to the fork you need to irrigate plants and livestock to provide food. Whether you’re a farmer growing wheat or you’ve got cattle, water is essential,” he said.

“Then all the way through the processing plant, whether you’re using it for heating, cooling, utility needs water, or as a raw material. We transport water to where it’s needed. We treat it so it’s suitable for use and also monitor and control it to make sure it’s of the right purity, the right quality and the right quantity.”

Products and applications

Some Xylem brands used by the agricultural industry and food manufacturers include Flygt submersible pumps and mixers, Lowara centrifugal pumps, Wedeco UV and ozone disinfection systems, Sanitaire aeration and wastewater treatment products, WTW online water quality monitoring equipment and Jabsco hygienic rotary lobe and flexible impeller pumps.

“We manufacture equipment to treat water to a potable standard, treat wastewater for reuse or to a standard safe enough to return to the environment, transport water and other liquids to where it is needed and monitor water usage and water quality,” George Anastasiadis, national business development manager of Xylem Water Solutions Australia told Food & Beverage Industry News.

The food and agricultural industries rely on the company’s solutions to not only supply water, but also to treat and analyse wastewater, sometimes under challenging conditions. For example, irrigators use borehole pumps to transport water from dams, rivers or lakes. This water needs to be transported by piped or multistage, end-suction pumps to the crops or livestock that need it.

Elsewhere, manure handling is a significant challenge when dealing with livestock such as poultry. Flygt provides liquid manure technology as well as submersible chopper pumps to handle this.

As Anastasiadis pointed out, dairy processors typically experience high organic loads in their effluent streams that need to be treated prior to discharge into municipal sewage systems or receiving bodies of water.

“A combination of anaerobic systems followed by Xylem’s aerobic biological treatment systems will reduce COD/BOD effectively while minimising footprint and reducing maintenance through advanced process controls,” he said.

He pointed out that fruit washing applications benefit from water reuse through Xylem’s tertiary treatment technologies. “For example, our UV and ozone disinfection technologies are applied to chlorine-resistant microorganisms like Cryptosporidium and Giardia without concern for disinfection by-products,” he said.

Wastewater discharge limits pose a challenge for meat processing plants due to the high organics, chemical oxygen demand (COD) and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) in the wastewater stream. “Xylem’s aerobic biological treatment technologies can be utilised to bring COD and BOD into compliance while improving on-site economics,” said Anastasiadis.

UV disinfection systems

With so many brands under the Xylem banner, new product releases are frequent. Anastasiadis was pleased to highlight one new range, Wedeco Spektron Industrial UV Disinfection Systems, which have been designed specifically for food and beverage manufacturers.

Process water disinfection, he explained, is important to the industry because it helps ensure products are fit for consumption. The use of UV for disinfection has the added benefit of providing high levels of effectiveness without adding unwanted taste or odour.

The systems deliver efficient and environmentally sustainable disinfection via closed-vessel UV reactors. Their features include a smooth electro-polished inner surface finish <0.8 µm Ra, hygienic flanges (DIN 11864-2 or tri clamp), a compact stainless-steel control cabinet, and FDA compliant seals.

Towards a sustainable future

Athanas said that Australia is at a crossroads. Pointing to the Murray-Darling scheme, which has not only failed to secure the water supply of the eastern states but also opened up claims of non-compliance and rorting, he said that Australia needs a stronger national water framework.

“Whether you’re a cotton farmer, a dairy farmer, or you run a processing plant in an urban environment, there’s competing priorities for that precious resource,” he said. “It’s the availability of the right quality and quantity that puts pressure on the entire food chain. From the farm all the way back to your home to get that breakfast cereal on the table takes a lot of water.”

Xylem Water Solutions, he said, has an important role to play in ensuring this precious resource is used wisely.