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International FoodTec Award: current winners 2024

The DLG (German Agricultural Society) has announced the winners of the International FoodTec Award 2024. This time, 14 innovation projects from the international food and supplier industry will be honored with this renowned prize. Four innovations receive the International FoodTec Award in gold, ten innovations receive the award in silver. The prize winners include companies from Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.


Gold prize-winners

Cavitation extraction in the counter-current flow

ANDRITZ Separation GmbH, Germany

Utilization of natural products and by-products into valuable food supplements and health beneficial ingredients

The utilization of by-products from food processing is a focus of sustainability projects. The ANDRITZ-Turbex is an immensely efficient extraction system for the production of functional nutrients and high-quality extracts from a variety of plant substances and natural by-products, such as brewer's grains, tea leaves or orange peels, which are used in recipes as natural ingredients to support taste, color, odor and nutritional value. This patented extraction technology generates high turbulence, shear forces and cavitation – a hundred times more than conventional extractors – and uses a range of rotors and stators, to achieve thousands of cavitations per second and thus higher yields in less time. Supported by a countercurrent process, the ANDRITZ-Turbex delivers up to 50% higher yields and also requires up to 30% less energy than conventional systems. The low extraction temperature of 40-50 °C combined with the short processing time of 60-90 seconds in the absence of oxygen minimizes the oxidation of valuable polyphenols and antioxidants, so that their activity is up to 10 times higher than conventional (proven ARP value). Since the process does not require ethanol as an extraction solvent, but can also be operated only with water, the costs and the ecological footprint are reduced.

Sustainable packaging made of alginate

Albert Handtmann Maschinenfabrik GmbH & Co. KG, Biberach a. d. Riß, Germany

With  increasing environmental concerns and consumer preferences for environmentally friendly products, there is a growing demand for sustainable packaging solutions. The Handtmann ConProSachet system is a new process for packaging liquid or pasty products, such as gels, beverages or sauces, in sachets. The preferred packaging material for flowpack machines has been and continues to be plastic films. There are already many approaches to reduce the use of (single-use) plastics as packaging material. The trend is towards very thin, recyclable films or films that are biodegradable within 24 months according to DIN standard EN 13432A. A disadvantage is the large amount of effort required for disposal after use. A significant part of the material is not recycled, but incinerated or often simply disposed of. The ConProSachet system does not use prefabricated plastic film for the casing, but alginate. The alginate casing is produced in a co-extrusion process at the same time as the filling of the respective product. In the process, the casing gels around the product and is sealed. The alginate sachets are edible or can be easily disposed of after use. They biodegrade in just a few weeks. The system is energy-efficient, intuitive to use and can be quickly converted to different sachet sizes. It offers the industry new opportunities to replace plastic films, which are increasingly unpopular with consumers but are often used as packaging material in flowpack machines, and thus reduce plastic waste. Alginate, which is extracted from algae, is an ecological and sustainable, biodegradable alternative raw material and is therefore another approach to solve existing packaging problems. It is suitable for a wide range of applications, taking into account its limitations, such as lower stability, different barrier properties and no possibility of resealing the packaging. 

Trajectory mixing

hs-tumbler GmbH, Quakenbrück, Germany

The mixing of raw materials and ingredients is a core process in many food processing companies. The hs-tumbler represents a significant step forward compared to the current state of mixing technology. In contrast to conventional mixers, which rely on agitators or impellers, the hs-tumbler uses a container that moves along a trajectory of so-called Lessajou curves, so that this unique manipulation of the entire mixing material can achieve high-quality mixing results with shorter processing times. The highly accelerated trajectory movement generates intense flow patterns, which supports efficient and fast as well as careful homogeneous mixing even with highly viscous or demanding materials and avoids product damage. The gentle and controlled mixing action minimizes shear forces and protects delicate ingredients, which both improves the taste and preserves the nutritional value. In addition to improved control of mixing parameters, this mixing technology promotes the elimination of "dead" zones within the container as well as consistent mixing quality without manual intervention and also avoids product waste. The energy-efficient design of the hs-tumbler contributes to the reduction of the overall energy consumption and, since the design does not require mechanical components within the container, the maintenance effort is reduced with high reliability of the device. The space-saving design of the device also allows easy integration into existing production lines and the hygienic design supports easy cleaning and ultimately food safety. It is versatile and suitable for various industries and product types. 

Digital Sealing Solution for Sustainable and Efficient Dairy & Food Packaging

watttron GmbH, Freital, Germany

The transformation of non-recyclable material in food packaging for mass production is an important step towards greater sustainability, pollution reduction and more efficient use of material resources. Traditional sealing systems in fill-seal (FS) machines are not able to process these new packaging materials properly because their usable sealing window is so narrow that temperature fluctuations from conventional machines do not allow an adequate seal quality or have to significantly reduce machine speed and performance. The digital sealing technology cera2seal®, in particular the SRHH (Sealing round heater hygienic) type, provides a new approach to sealing recycled lids of mono-materials on packaged dairy products, such as yoghurt pots, and food. The sealing and welding technology of cera2seal® separates the heating elements and, in combination with a fully integrated temperature control system, brings them to the "point of action", whereby immense precision in temperature control in the sealing process is achieved. This is the only way to process mono-materials in the packaging area, which have a very narrow temperature window for sealing. The consistency of the seal is also better than that of conventional sealing heads and temperature fluctuations during the production run are eliminated, controlled by an integrated monitoring function. With the cera2seal® heating system, which has been specially designed for sealing and welding processes, complicated packaging geometries can be realized - such as complex irregular shapes - so that it can be widely used in various food industries. Other economic and ecological advantages include the ease of technology change and the reduction of energy consumption. This is because the cera2seal® SRHH sealing heads are ideal as a retrofit solution for many systems. In addition, energy consumption can be reduced by approx. 30 to 50% compared to conventional sealing process in FS machines.

Silver prize-winners

Raslysation technology – Quality-saving, sustainable and efficient non-thermal treatment of opaque liquids

Lyras A/S, Aalborg, Denmark

Pasteurization is a widely used technology for preserving food. Traditional processes use heat and are therefore usually associated with high energy consumption, the formation of off-flavors and the loss of natural ingredients. Lyras A/S has developed a non-thermal pasteurization process, based on UV technology, which is particularly suitable for unclear liquids, e.g. dairy products. Well-known pasteurization technologies such as HPP (high-pressure treatment) and PEF (pulsed electric fields) effectively kill bacteria and germs, but often put a strain on product quality; UV light, on the other hand, is gentler, but does not work in opaque liquids. So the raslysation technology is based on a combination of UV light with light filters and a turbulent flow system in coil shaped tube. Through the use of light filters, wavelengths of the UV source that have a negative effect on product quality can be filtered out, resulting in gentle product treatment and the valuable ingredients are preserved. In order to ensure that the entire liquid is evenly but not excessively exposed to UV light, which is particularly important for unclear liquids, the system has been supplemented with a constant turbulent flow. By means of a coil, and by using the centrifugal forces, the particles reach the outer surfaces of the coil, where they are exposed to UV light. Raslysation, therefore, is a non-thermal technology that treats cold as well as hot opaque liquids and liquid products without the light shining into the liquid. This UV-based technology typically requires 90% less energy and consumes more than 60% less water than conventional heating or cooling pasteurization processes, combining efficiency and high product quality with resource conservation. In addition, an application for other product areas is also conceivable.

Cross-flow principle: Innovation of horizontal airflow

VETEC Anlagenbau GmbH, Verden/Aller, Germany

Economical and reproducible, thermal processes are of elementary importance in food processing. However, conventional methods for generating a uniform air flow require a lot of energy and are thus very cost-intensive. Given the increasing focus on green and sustainable solutions, energy efficiency is thus playing an even greater role. The AEROMAT CROSS POWER is a universal system for all thermal processes, like drying, smoking, cooking, cooling and baking of lying products with horizontal airflow. However, for the first time, it has been possible to transfer the air pressure and air velocity of a modern hot smoke system to cross-flow technology. The up to four times higher speeds in the AEROMAT CROSS POWER result in higher loading (up to 50 layers in a standard trolley), significantly faster processes, higher yields and lower energy consumption. The characteristic features of the "cross-flow" are an appropriate system geometry combined with an innovative form of injection nozzles that enable the air to be discharged uniformly over a large area at high speed. Movable injection and exhaust ducts also facilitate maintenance and cleaning of the system. The chamber is modular in design and can thus be expanded almost at will. The new, foamed chamber insulation allows temperatures of up to 200°C without any problems. Furthermore, the use of an ECOCON heat exchanger is characteristic, enabling the recovery and utilization of waste heat and further minimizing energy consumption. In addition, the AEROMAT CROSS POWER - based on semi-batch operation in combination with an automation solution - can be used to set up a fully continuous, yet flexible, production line. While the market focus to date has been on the meat industry, the flexibility of this system allows it to be used in other application areas and other industries, such as plant-based products or pet food. 

Foreign Material Identification powered by Artificial Intelligence

TOMRA Solutions GmbH, Mülheim-Kärlich, Germany

Transparency is the key to trust and a sustainable and ethical food ecosystem. The basis for this is information. TOMRA's Foreign Material Identification (FMID) solution uses artificial intelligence and cloud technology to improve food safety, quality and traceability while increasing process efficiency. Images of foreign material captured by the TOMRA sorter are analyzed by a deep learning model, reducing the detection of false alarms and equipment downtime. Only true positives trigger alarms to the control system, and those responsible in the company receive instant notifications on their mobile phones and can access the stored images. Additionally, these images help to constantly improve the solution by continuously retraining the deep learning model. FMID is integrated with TOMRA Insight, a cloud-based platform with an easy-to-use interface and real-time insights. The connected TOMRA Digital Operations Center enables remote monitoring and management of the solution, improving its performance. Since the focus is on sorting and removal of foreign material, the real-time aspect of image processing techniques is elementary. Different sensor technologies, in combination with image processing algorithms, enable proper separation of products and foreign material and thus prevent food waste. Since traditional methods work in isolation and mostly without connectivity, their potential for continuous improvement is limited. Manual interventions often lead to human error and in addition sorters usually aggressively sort out foreign material to ensure an uncontaminated food product, resulting in a high number of false alarms and also an undesirable amount of good products being lost or having to be reprocessed. The new Foreign Material Identification solution combines the strengths of advanced sorters with the added benefits of a connected, cloud-based solution and artificial intelligence. It reduces the risk of food contamination, improves food safety, and ultimately leads to a safer and more reliable food supply chain with minimized food waste that protects consumers from potential health risks. The information collected in the system ensures the necessary transparency regarding the quality of raw products and sorted products and thus supports internal quality assurance. The versatility and adaptability of the sorting solution allow it to be widely used in many food categories. 

Automatic testing system for Plate and Tubular Heat Exchangers

Unison Process Solutions, Limerick, Ireland

Heat exchanger integrity testing is essential for the safe and efficient operation of industrial systems and processes. Heat exchangers are used in a wide range of applications, including fluid processing, power generation, chemical processing, HVAC systems, and refrigeration. Manufacturers are all too aware that their pasteurizers, plate and tube heat exchangers are susceptible to cracks and other defects during their lifetime, which can cause severe contamination and ultimately lead to consumer health problems, reputational damage or costly product recalls. HEIST is an innovative and patented system designed for non-destructive integrity testing of heat exchangers. Unlike traditional methods that rely on regular testing (usually 1-4 times a year), daily testing is made possible before the start of production, so that cracks or defects in the heat exchanger plates are detected in time and the risk of product contamination is reduced. The system includes sensors, valves, and pumps that integrate seamlessly with existing equipment, and also enables an automated testing process for both plate heat exchangers (PHEs) and pasteurizers. Additional tests, such as diversion valve tests and hold time checks, can be performed to ensure the overall integrity and efficiency of the heat exchanger system. While traditional methods require the heat exchanger to be dismantled, here a non-destructive testing approach is adopted that does not damage the equipment during the testing process, minimizes downtime and avoids equipment damage. The sensors and algorithms used work with high precision and can identify cracks and defects in heat exchangers up to a size of 50 μm. In addition, instant digital test results, so-called integrity certificates, are provided, eliminating the need for interpretation by the operator and increasing the reliability of the test process and also that of data integrity.  Data can be easily accessed, shared, and analyzed, enabling informed decision-making and effective maintenance planning. There are further applications in sustainable resource management or the recovery of waste and by-products. For example, the sensors can measure milk residues or other products in the rinsing and cleaning water and determine approaches to reduce or eliminate waste. By-products can then be recovered and processed elsewhere if necessary.

FreshIndex - Digital quality assurance for fresh produce

tsenso GmbH, Stuttgart, Germany

Quality assurance and control for fruit and vegetables is nowadays mainly carried out by visual inspections. Important internal quality parameters, such as sweetness, acidity, firmness and taste are rarely measured. Often, inspection results are documented only in the case of quality complaints. However, in order to detect quality fluctuations and trends at an early stage and control them accordingly, a more intensive monitoring of internal parameters and rapid processing of this data is required. This is currently not possible with the available invasive measurement methods.
FreshIndex offers a system for data-based quality monitoring and a fully automated supply chain in the fresh food segment. On the one hand the system consists of a portable food spectrometer that measures internal quality parameters quickly, accurately and non-destructively. A complete spectrometer measurement process takes 10 seconds and is about 10x faster than a single conventional invasive measurement. A scan gives not only one single result, e.g. sweetness in °Brix, but a variety of parameters: Brix, acidity, firmness, dry matter, color of the pulp and degree of ripeness. On the other hand, the cloud-based AI platform with its digital twin enables a high degree of accuracy in predicting the future quality or freshness of the fruit or vegetables. FreshIndex helps operators perform quality assurance tests directly during the goods receiving process and is easy and intuitive to use. Due to the cloud approach, additional input data can be processed, such as product image, origin details, temperature and humidity during transport as well as weather conditions during growth and harvesting. The predictions of the digital twin can be integrated into existing software solutions for digital quality assurance. This comprehensive application, quality inspections in incoming / outgoing goods, helps to reduce the number of rejected deliveries and thus food waste, is GDPR compliant and, as a result of GS1 EPCIS compatibility, can be connected to most common EPR systems. 

Individualised Horizontal Slicing machine for fresh meat

Grasselli SPA, Albinea (RE), Italy

The cutting of products is an important energy-intensive process in food processing, which is used in various industries, including meat processing, and which is usually associated with a number of food losses. The market for horizontal cutting currently consists of inline machines that are mounted with a defined number of blades at a defined distance, a so-called "cutting pitch". The lower belt of these machines represents the working base, and the upper belt pushes the product through the blades. The machine must be fine-tuned manually. Due to the varying size and shape of the product (typically chicken breast or turkey breast), a permanent optimization of the various cutting parameters would be necessary to achieve the best yield and quality. As a result, the fixed and mechanical configuration of the current horizontal cutting machines presents two main problems: 1. The impossibility of fine-tuning the cutting parameters during production, resulting in poorer cutting quality and in a difficult to control production; 2. The almost constant presence of a trim slice on the top, due to the difference between the height of the pressed product and the cutting pitch resulting in lower yields and lot of product residues. KSL-DV is an automatic horizontal cutting machine for boneless meat, specially designed for poultry processing. Compared to the standard fixed-thickness horizontal cutting machines currently available on the market, the system is able to detect the size and shape of each incoming product and adjust the cutting process to maximize the yield and quality of the cut product. This is made possible by the use of a 3D scanner system to examine the product combined with specially developed software and by a patented blades movement system. This allows the machine to automatically decide how many blades (from 0 to 6) to be used as well as to adjust automatically the positions of the blades and those of the pressure parameters in order to minimize the unusable residues of the cutted product and, ideally, to achieve complete zero waste. The control of the cutting movement by an electronic actuator allows easy modification of all cutting parameters during production in real time, so that each individual piece can be treated according to its individual cutting parameters and ultimately an average product yield of 96% to 98% can be achieved. The energy savings and the cleaner downstream handling process combined with a corresponding reduction in the risk of contamination and an improvement in the shelf life of the product are also decisive. The system is compatible with other standard machines and can therefore be easily integrated into existing production lines. In addition, by adapting the software, this cutting process can also be transferred to other product areas.

All-in-one - Cutting Drum with Universal Grinder

Maschinenfabrik Seydelmann KG, Stuttgart, Germany

Industrial grinders for cutting fresh meat, cooked meat up to 85°C, fat or frozen meat blocks down to -25°C and other food products have their fixed areas of application in food processing. In addition to energy requirements, versatility, performance and end product quality are essential assessment criteria for this technology. The AU 200 U Universal Grinder processes fresh material and freezer blocks down to -25 °C without having to change the working worm or cutting set. Gentle processing and a clear cutting pattern are achieved with very effective hourly outputs with any starting material. The different consistencies, e.g. fresh and frozen, can be processed simultaneously or with a time delay. The Seydelmann cutting drum consists of an extended working worm and a cylindrical perforated drum with pneumatic changeover valve. This is used instead of the usual set of knives and hole plates. It enables the simultaneous reduction of the raw material to the desired size and the sorting out of foreign bodies such as plastic particles or films as well as hard components such as tendons, cartilage and bone fragments. Due to the minimum distance between the worm extension and the perforated drum, the raw material is cut without contact and thus with minimal stress on the product and minimal heating (1°C to a maximum of 3°C). In addition, 15-20% more product throughput, a higher yield or fewer by-products or residues are characteristic. Since the cutting drum can be used in in addition to traditional cutting sets, it is possible for only one machine to act as a grinder, block crusher and soft separator. This offers maximum flexibility with reduced time and energy, reduces space requirements and ultimately causes lower investment costs. The applicability of this technology is also possible in other food industries in the medium term.

HygienicLine Dynamics for hygienic areas

murrplastik (a brand of Murrplastik Systemtechnik GmbH) und Stäubli, Oppenweiler, Germany

Retraction systems help to guide wires and cables, and also to compensate for their length. None of the current retraction systems are specially made for hygienically sensitive industries and must therefore be covered with protective hulls and replaced regularly due to dirty edges and possible holes. Those protective hulls are not only needed to protect the food from abrasion, but also the robot itself, its wires and other components from dirt, dust, cleaning agents and other chemicals. HygienicLine Dynamics not only has the properties of existing retraction system (e.g. length compensation of cables), but is also FDA-compliant and designed in Hygienic Design. For this reason, it can be used especially in hygienically sensitive industries, such as the food and beverage industry, without favoring dirty corners. The use of electro polished stainless steel and high-performance plastics makes the surface smoother and ensures a low-abrasion application. It is characterized by the durability and cost-effectiveness of the system, its resistance to high temperatures and pressure conditions, and its resistance to acids and alkalis too. Its Hygienic Design prevents adhering dirt and ensures easy cleaning, while detectable material minimizes possible abrasion. Also worth mentioning are ease of handling and a high degree of flexibility due to an "open" system, which enables a subsequent assembly and disassembly of cables and wires and minimizes assembly errors. Overall, this system meets market requirements in terms of hygiene and sustainability as well as time and cost efficiency and can be used in many areas like food processing.

One step storage-stable, icing sugar production

Hosokawa Alpine AG, Augsburg, Germany

Icing sugar has a wide range of applications in the confectionery and bakery industry. In the conventional grinding of granulated sugar (sucrose), icing sugar tends to clump together again immediately after leaving the mill. This leads to difficulties in further processing as well as in the use as a decoration for confectionery. Normally, additives, e.g. starch to prevent agglomeration or systems, such as mixing containers that keep the powdered sugar moving, are required to preserve and store stable icing sugar. Complex downstream conditioning processes such as cooling, and heating screws are also often used. Hosokawa Alpine has addressed this problem and developed an integrated, space- and energy-saving solution based on precise process engineering adjustment of the conditioning conditions in the mill tank. In the Sugarplex SX Flow, a conditioned ambient atmosphere is created during the grinding process, which means, that the defined moisture content of the air and residence time of the freshly ground sugar in the mill housing is precisely monitored. The mechanically broken or freshly crushed sugar crystal, which is in an unstable, amorphous state, can thus be converted into a stable, crystallized, storable form in a controlled manner in one process step without reagglomerating. This stabilized state significantly increases the storage stability of the icing sugar without the need for further additives such as starch. All parts in contact with the product are made of stainless steel and are manufactured in accordance with the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC and the Food Regulation (EC) 1935/2004. Thanks to its PSR 11 design, the system also complies with the European ATEX regulations 2014/34/EU and the major international directives. The system is an airless concept without downstream filter or blower, so no fine dust is emitted into the environment. Apart from compressed air as rinsing and conditioned air, only demineralized water is required as an additional medium for the process. Since no additional blower with motor is required, the energy costs and also the maintenance costs for the system are generally very low. 

Bubble Sensor PAD20 against food waste

Baumer Electric AG, Frauenfeld, Switzerland

Many variety changes in food processing, especially in the dairy industry, cause product residues in production facilities and product containers. These food losses generate additional material costs on the one hand and costs for the disposal of the leftovers as well as for time-consuming cleaning on the other. In some places, the nitrogen, which pushes the fruit preparation out of the respective container in yoghurt production, also causes the plant to come to a standstill as a result of a pump malfunction. In order to prevent the pumps from running dry, the containers are changed earlier, allowing a “safety remainder”, but this is not expedient either. With the Baumer PAD20 analysis sensor, which is attached to the supply pipe and that reliably detects air and gas bubbles, the system detects when the fruit container is empty. While so-called sight glasses were used in the past, the sensor enables a digital "view" into the pipelines. The visualization takes place via a 360° LED and via two separately adjustable switching outputs as well as the digital interface IO-Link. The sensitivity of the sensor is individually adjustable, so that the switching thresholds can be set as required for the respective process. The selective and precise sensor can be used to detect air and gas bubbles in liquids, whether low, pasty or sticky. It meets all current hygiene standards and is extremely robust, so that it can be used even in harsh environments. It is media-independent and can also be easily integrated into existing processes and retrofitted. The sensor has a wide range of applications in different industries and offers added value in terms of energy, raw material and resource savings. It supports the increase in process reliability and product quality and helps to avoid food waste.