An EU project to upgrade food processes may deliver technology to streamline the industry and help meet the needs of growing populations.
As the population of Europe – and the planet – grow rapidly, it is crucially important to optimise delivery of food and improve on food processes. EU studies in this area can certainly benefit Europe but also the rest of the world: food processing advances are usually replicated beyond their borders.
The EU-funded 'Computer-aided food processes for control engineering' (CAFE) project is coming up with more advanced ways to control food processing in different areas. It is studying four separate cases that represent different processing techniques: bioconversion, microfiltration, preservation and structuring.
More specifically, it is investigating wine-making for bioconversion, microfiltration of food beverages for separation, freeze-drying of lactic acid bacteria for preservation and ice-cream crystallisation for structuring. The technology characterising this project lies in combining sensing devices with process analytical technology (PAT), a technology which reduces over-processing and enhances consistency, resulting in viable new processing models.
This approach enables the CAFE project team to make more precise estimations of previously unmeasured variables that define product quality, while also monitoring the changing physical parameters during processing. CAFE will also control methods to maintain uniformity in quality and production despite variations in raw material and/or sudden changes in the demand.
The project will involve numerous experiments and development of sensors to allow real-time or near-real-time monitoring. A modular, scalable hardware network will integrate several kinds of sensors and components that will maximise product quality, satisfy safety requirements and minimise operation costs. Work has progressed considerably; the new processing techniques could reshape the processing industry.