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An unprecedented water-recycling system for washing, rinsing and drying of thermal insulated containers within the Food Industry

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Optainer (An unprecedented water-recycling system for washing, rinsing and drying of thermal insulated containers within the Food Industry)

Reporting period: 2019-08-01 to 2019-11-30

Big food retailers use thermic insulated containers for the safe and efficient transportation of temperature-controlled food to retail stores facilities. These containers are cleaned in the logistic centres and reused countless number of time to ship food over and over again. Container cleaning is a crucial step in food operations and aspects like the effectiveness of the cleaning, the cost-efficiency of the process, the environmental impact and the water remaining in the container after the cleaning are crucial. The overall objective of this project is to develop an automated cleaning station capable for washing, rinsing and drying the inside and outside of food containers in a short time (1’ 40’’), at low cost (around 0.5 €/container), with reduced energy and water consumption.
Optainer will be a step forward with respect to our current cleaning stations since it cleans both the inside and outside and is more cost-efficient and effective. Our TRL6 prototype will evolve towards a new cleaning station equipped with a new robotic arm to clean the outside. Thanks to the H2020 SME Instrument Phase 1 program we have been able to confirm the technical, commercial and financial viability of Optainer. We have identified the technical aspects to be developed and have set up a budget to achieve a TRL8 version. In addition, we have surveyed and segmented the market, have identified potential customers and have got more insight into the competitive landscape. We have also assessed technical and commercial risks and analysed competitors and competing technologies. We have established a business model and have forecasted the business.
A major part of container cleaning is done manually and the few existing automated solutions only clean one of the sides and, in comparison to Optainer, show worse performance in terms of cleaning power, water and energy use, drying efficiency, speed of cleaning and occupied space in the logistic centre. The installation of Optainer cleaning stations will reduce risk for foodborne illnesses during transportation of food and will limit workers exposure to polluted boxes, will save money, energy and water and will speed up the logistic chain in food retailing market.