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Innovative oxygen-free wine bottling process

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RiCaMo (Innovative oxygen-free wine bottling process)

Berichtszeitraum: 2017-02-01 bis 2018-03-31

Why it is needed?
The equilibrium between senses and biochemistry of potable/edible liquids such as wine, beer or olive oil can be compromised by the presence of a residual amount of oxygen inside the bottles as it affect the microbiology equilibrium of the liquid and thus its conservation.
Furthermore, the use of sulphites and other preservatives in food and beverage industry currently represents a critical issue, due to their unwanted health effects. Despite their acknowledged GRAS – Generally Recognized As Safe – status, several side-effects are commonly acknowledged.
Furthermore, artificial preservatives are considered to be responsible of organoleptic properties alteration.
For all these reasons, artificial addictive introduction is therefore more and more not welcome by consumers. This trend is justified by a growing request of organic, vegan and biodynamic products and the higher willingness to pay for sulphite-free liquids.
What is the value proposition?
With the aim to improve the overall food and beverage industry sustainability, between 2014 and 2015 an Italian “foodtech” start-up company named DRTech srl, in partnership with an existing SME named ENTER srl, developed an innovative bottling technology system: RiCaMo. This technology allows to easily and accurately control the amount of residual oxygen in the bottle through a patented retractable straw system under gaseous nitrogen. This solution consents to preserve the quality of the product while increasing its conservation time. These results positively impact on the industry performance by reducing wastes (-15% in terms of wine product and glass bottles) and fulfilling a growing market demand for natural products.
How does it work?
The novel RiCaMo concept is based on an innovative electromechanical machine consisting of a retractable coaxial nozzle able to gently introduce the treated liquid into the bottle, preventing the its exposure to the oxygen, which is repelled by a constant N2 flow. RiCaMo is the outcome of over 2 years R&D project aimed at introducing a cost-effective solution to improve the wine quality, reducing sulphites also avoiding expensive raw materials pre-treatments.
What are the project goals?
The main objective of RiCaMo project was to foster an effective market uptake of RiCaMo bottling technology and concept. In order to achieve the market maturity, RiCaMo paved the way to the finetuning of some critical technical developments and parametrization activities performed in collaboration with the technology end-users.
Two were the main specific objectives: 1. To improve the technical features of the system; 2. To pave the way for industrial exploitation of the technology.
RiCaMo project has been kicked off on July the 12th 2016. Starting from laboratory prototype and obtained results, the main objective of the first semester of implementation was the integration of RiCaMo system with further electronic and mechanical subsystems, in order to complete its functionalities and to prepare the ground for the industrialisation phase. Improvements have been made in terms of components, software and scale.
Optoelectronic oxygen sensors have been integrated in RiCaMo system in order to allow the real time monitoring of dissolved oxygen during bottling phases. A dedicated software application integrates data acquired in real time and provides alerts thanks to an algorithm generated during the testing phase through trial-and-error experimentation.
The RiCaMo filling system works with a magnetic field sensor for volume detection. A flowmeter outputs 4 pulses every 1cl of product injected into the bottle. The bottle filling level is calculated through the volume injected. Every time the level reaches the top of a band the straw is raised to the next band.
In order to optimize the prototype for high-volume production needs, the RiCaMo team performed two integrated workstreams: improving the performances of each valve by optimising the circuits to ensure the greatest flow without creating turbulences, and fine-tuning the time of gas and vacuum injection phases, ensuring the maximum level of filling and the minimum amount of oxygen instillation; increasing the number of operating valves thanks to the introduction of a rotary machine with up to 16 valves.
After these improvements RiCaMo can fill a 0.75 liters volume bottle (Bordeaux standard) in times ranging from 7 to 18 seconds. That plant has been engineered for meeting production needs ranging from 500 to 1.500 bottles per hour (linear) or from 1.200 to 2.800 bottles per hour (non-stopping carousel).
During the first reporting period the mechanical, electrical pneumatic and electronic components of the envisaged 6 pilots have been designed. A majority of these components have been made and pilots are partly assembled.
Since January 2017 we moved from a research and design driven prototyping to the pilot assembling, deployment and testing. The Technology Readiness Level escalation of the RiCaMo system was strongly dependable from the User Acceptance Testing in real market environment. Thus, the cooperation of pilot users was required. That is why the RiCaMo consortium developed the communication and dissemination strategy in parallel to the technical implementation of the pilot plants.
Rigorous analysis has been made integrating data directly generated by the pilot plants, feedbacks from pilot users, scientific results of bio-chemical composition of samples and quality-organoleptic evidences collected from experts. Moreover, market analysis has been conducted ongoing the project implementation. The insights generated have been employed for the fine tuning of the plants’ engineering and the specification of the final business model and investor and marketing strategy.
In September 2017, RiCaMo participated in the Drinktec Munich (DE), the world's leading trade fair for the beverage and liquid food industry.
At the end of project life-cycle, RiCaMo has become a market-ready revolutionary product with strong outlook for business success.
Wine, beer and olive oil productions are largely representative of the European agriculture and agroindustry. The European Union is a global leading producer of wine. Between 2011 and 2016, the average annual production was 167,8 million hectoliters. It accounts for 45% of wine-growing areas, 65% of production, 57% of global consumption and 70% of exports in global terms. The EU is one of the major beer producing territories in the world. The production volume in 2014 was over 383 million hectolitres, brewed by around 6.500 breweries spread all around Europe. Their products are distributed all around the world. In volume terms the EU is a key player, providing over one quarter of world's production. The European Union is the leading producer, consumer and exporter of olive oil as well. In the last five marketing years (2010/11 – 2014/15) the EU produced 69%, consumed 57% and exported 65% of the world's olive oil.
Supporting innovation practices in the food-tech industry is thus pivotal for maintaining such a global leadership and preserve and develop the economic and occupational impact of concerned businesses.