Where food meets IT: Smart food technologies will soon be put to the test at Lemgo


Union is Strength is a European journalism competition organized by Slate.fr in collaboration with the European Commission. About forty journalists, French and European, have been selected to work as a team to write articles about projects funded by the European Union in Europe. A perspective on what the EU can do in its regions. In Lemgo (Germany) We undoubtedly live in a world of contradictions: while hunger is worsening in large parts of the planet, certain regions are swimming in abundance. Globally, almost a third of food products are thrown away before they even reach the consumer’s table. The same is true in European Union (EU) countries, where large quantities of precious food are simply wasted. This unequal distribution of food is now exacerbated by the war between Russia and Ukraine, which are among the world’s largest importers of wheat. However, the staple food of poor countries, especially in North Africa, consists largely of this cereal, which is imported in bulk from the two belligerent countries. Consequently, the stoppage of production and exports due to the war threatens starvation in many countries, but everyone on the planet could have enough to eat. But the poor management of available food, linked to inefficient production processes, explains this unequal distribution that we observe today around the world.Analysis of food products To remedy this, it is necessary to launch research projects that encourage the intelligent production of food One of these initiatives will soon see the light of day, under the aegis of the faculty of Lemgo (North Rhine-Westphalia), the Technical University of East Westphalia-Lippe (Technischen Hochschule Ostwestfalen-Lippe, TH OWL). by the Smart Food Factory, an intelligent food production facility being built on campus. It is planned that the work will end this summer and, as early as next autumn, this center should begin its research on the topic “Where food meets IT” (“The union of food and technology”). The European Regional Development Fund (FEDER) finances this project for an amount of 10 million euros. An amount that includes the construction of laboratories, the purchase of equipment and some test facilities for the first experiments. The goal of the Smart Food Factory will not be to produce food in abundance, but to analyze it digitally using demonstrators and equipment test It will therefore be a small-scale industrial establishment, which will then apply for research projects as necessary. The results will mainly help increase knowledge in the field of food technologies. And in practice, this program will be of primary interest to food producing companies, who will be invited to participate. The latter, indeed, will have the opportunity to test their own products and carry out comparative analyses. Transparent research made accessible “We will examine food and its production methods in detail, in collaboration with our partners. Issues of sustainability, quality, supply chain security and profitability are at the heart of our research efforts,” says project director Andrea Davis. It is with enthusiasm that she guides us to the site, of which she knows all the corners. Andrea Davis, project manager, presents the Smart Food Factory, under construction on the campus of the Polytechnic University of Lemgo. Its purpose is to analyze food digitally. | Marion Durand First we enter the entrance hall. This space, which it will be bright and glazed, it already gives off an impression of openness in the current state of the work. “It is important for us to ensure the transparency of our research and make it accessible to the general public”, emphasizes Andrea Davis. In this sense, workshops, conferences and information sessions will be organized in the future, and shared workspaces will also be created: “Consumers are often skeptical when we talk to them about intelligent production. Food and smart? And what else, will milk cartons soon start talking? We want to show that smart food production is indispensable in the future. Only by inviting people will we be able to transmit this message”, continues the scientist. The whole building is surrounded by large green spaces and the production workshop, where the research will be carried out, is exposed for all to see. Lifetime Banking It is once in the latter that Andrea Davis goes into detail. “Today, food production is mainly about putting raw materials into a machine to get a final product. We aspire to change that. We want to monitor and understand every step of the production process”. To this end, the sensors will make it possible to know at all times the state of the raw materials and processed foods. The raw materials, in fact, are different natural substances according to each batch of production, but any variation can have serious consequences on product quality, to the extent that sometimes entire batches have to be scrapped. Therefore, production processes must be able to be adapted during operation. Only then companies can be efficient in the use of resources. In short, according to Andrea Davis, you get a digital picture of the manufacturing process and understand the product better. Then we can give it a whole new dimension and produce smarter : for example, the temperature or the accumulation of certain enzymes in food can be monitored.Similarly, sensors can be used to detect gases involved in the food degradation process ts. Thus, conclusions can be drawn about the useful life of a given food: “We will devote a large part of our research to the useful life, specifies Andrea Davis. If we want to reduce food waste in the future, we will have to manage expiration dates differently. And if we can keep food longer, the conditions of transportation will also be easier, which will ensure a better supply to people living on other continents. As you can see, everything is very connected.” Vegetable milk, meat substitutes In the midst of the imposing machinery and the bustling work, Andrea Davis reveals the projects that will soon be implemented in Lemgo. Among these is a continuous brewing system, where every step of beer production, from the beer to the storage tank, will be digitally controlled. The results will be useful for brewmasters and the industry in general: “We’ll be putting a lot of our research into shelf life,” says Andrea Davis. The project is financed by the European Regional Development Fund. | Marion DurandSocial trends will also be taken into account in the Smart Food Factory. “We will be particularly interested in and improving the efficient production of milk and meat substitutes,” says Andrea Davis. Research on the production of plant milk from oats, soybeans and peas already exists at TH OWL. The leaves of the sugar beet can help us in this, for example. This is an avenue we want to explore further.” According to Andrea Davis, the same question arises for meat substitutes, because the demand is also increasing enormously in this area. Real meat products are also being studied at the Smart Food Factory , as the project manager confides with a smile: “We have a tiled room where you can cut a whole pig, like in a slaughterhouse.” Another project focuses on the degree of maturation of air-dried meats. “Thanks to ultrasonic waves, we will be able to determine in the future whether a ham is sufficiently cured. This noble product must be in optimal condition to be delivered. Again, this is a matter of resource efficiency. Luxury hotels they tend to quickly throw away meat products that are not of impeccable quality.” Lemgo is destined to become an attractive scientific center in the field of smart food technologies.In this period marked by the scarcity and high cost of food, these technologies will be essential for sustainable management and efficient of food resources. Translation: Voxeurop This article was produced as part of the Union is Strength competition which received financial support from the European Union. The article reflects the views of its author and the European Commission is not responsible for its content or use.
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