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Smart digital tools help Europe’s food processing industry tackle high energy costs

In today’s energy crisis, an EU-backed project’s smart sensors are helping Europe’s food SMEs slash their energy costs.

Digital Economy
Industrial Technologies
Energy

The EU-funded S3FOOD project is championing digital innovation in Europe’s food processing industry. Its smart digital tools are helping food SMEs reduce their energy consumption while maintaining their productivity. According to a news item posted on the project website, this could lead to energy savings of up to 40 %. S3FOOD’s intelligent data collection and management systems are intended to help Europe’s more than 290 000 SMEs – representing 90 % of the European food industry – cut and control costs despite today’s soaring energy prices. The smart sensors increase efficiency, provide better quality control, improve food safety and ensure sustainable production, thus supporting SMEs in their digitalisation journey.

Grabbing missed opportunities

“A lot of energy savings are low-hanging fruit that are easy to achieve. But without the means to monitor energy consumption, companies often miss opportunities to improve their efficiency,” notes Innovation Manager Dr Veerle De Graef of S3FOOD project coordinator Flanders’ FOOD, Belgium, in the news item. “A primary goal of the S3FOOD project has been to help food companies start their digital transition and experience how quickly they can get a return on their investment.” So far, S3FOOD has awarded grants to over 70 food companies and technology providers engaged in digital innovation in the EU. One of the grant recipients is the FI.RMS and SMILE project run by a small consortium of Spanish technology providers aiming to cut the energy costs of a large abattoir in Asturias. The abattoir’s production of up to 150 tonnes of meat a day results in energy costs of over EUR 500 000 a year. The project aims to cut the abattoir’s energy consumption by metering, sub-metering and analysing more than 40 of its energy parameters. “Most companies in Spain are used to getting one bill a month, and that’s all the information they get about their electricity and gas consumption. Our energy monitoring sensors are connected to analysers that send simple, visual information every five minutes, so they gain frequent insights about where energy is used and how they can manage it,” explains Business Development Manager Alberto de las Fuentes of ENERGIGANTE, a technology partner in the Spanish consortium. “Our tools also follow daily fluctuations in energy prices so we can keep manufacturers up to date with the cheapest time to run production. That’s important if your plant is only in operation a few hours a day,” remarks de las Fuentes. Ultimately, the abattoir could achieve annual energy savings of 10 to 20 % or even much higher through the S3FOOD project – a reduction achieved without compromising productivity. FI.RMS and SMILE is just one of the projects that have received S3FOOD funding. The projects focus on a wide range of aspects in the food processing industry, from an enhanced data integration system for improved egg processing to low-cost digitalisation of yoghurt production and a smart system for real-time monitoring of evaporation in wine ageing. S3FOOD (Smart Sensor System for Food Safety, Quality Control and Resource Efficiency in the Food Processing Industry) will present its results at its final event to be held in Brussels in September 2022. For more information, please see: S3FOOD project website

Keywords

S3FOOD, energy, consumption, food, digital, processing industry, SMEs

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