An increasingly savvy food consumer base is spurring the food processing industry towards new healthy products and environmentally-friendly preparation methods. The EU-funded project, 'Computer-aided food processes for control engineering' (CAFÉ) developed smart control of four common processes: bioconversion, separation, preservation and structuring. CAFE success relied on exploiting process analytical technology and sensing devices in combination with simulations and models. Case studies from wine making, microfiltration of food beverages, freeze-drying of lactic acid bacteria and ice cream crystallisation demonstrated the benefits. Smart control configurations for an entire food plant enable efficient adaptation of several different production lines to flexibly accommodate demand. Food processing is a diverse and complex business yet process monitoring has conventionally evaluated simple parameters such as temperature and pressure. These parameters are not directly related to product quality or to energy and water consumption. Incorporating the ability to monitor and control physico-chemical food properties such as nutrient content, colour, viscosity or microbiological characteristics associated with food safety provides ample opportunity to improve product quality and diversity. More efficient use of information through advanced data acquisition, analysis and prognosis tools enables accurate estimation of as yet unmeasured plant states and prediction of future scenarios. CAFÉ delivered novel technology for sensing and controlling four common food processing procedures and optimising real-time overall plant operation for better product quality and safety. It is expected to have major benefits for a variety of food processing sectors, including decreased operating costs and enhanced market adaptability and penetration.
Food processing, smart control, process analytical technology, physico-chemical