In the future, you can customize prepared meals to suit your personal needs at the touch of a button

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No extra mass manufacturing, however extra room for buyer needs. That is the longer term imaginative and prescient of Allard Martinet, Options Director at Marel Poultry. The corporate is creating machines to course of protein-rich meals resembling meat, in addition to meat substitutes. Martinet believes that many meals producers are betting on robots and automation. That is important as a result of the meals trade pushes the boundaries of present processes and methods. Automation makes it attainable to additional customise merchandise to the non-public needs of consumers. There isn’t a longer mass manufacturing, however there’s a whole lot of selection in merchandise and portion sizes.

The meals trade is transferring. The demand for meals is growing, high quality necessities have gotten extra stringent, and increasingly more variations seem in the marketplace. Furthermore, consolation has develop into extra essential not too long ago. “Is barbecue climate predictable? Then we wish to have satay sticks, marinated bacon strips, and a salad prepared for purchasers off the shelf the subsequent day. “Folks now not wish to reduce up rooster breasts and string them on a stick themselves,” Martinet says. “However within the manufacturing unit, A lot of these duties are sometimes partially carried out by individuals. Particularly on the subject of flexibility and flexibility, for instance, within the case of grilling meat in unexpectedly good climate.

Know-how helps meals manufacturing transfer ahead

Lisanne van Oosterhoud © Sandra Birnbaum

On the one hand, there’s extra demand for labor-intensive Able to eat And Able to prepare dinner Meals. However, there’s an acute scarcity of manpower in factories. This places meals processors in a troublesome place. “We face important challenges when it comes to meals safety and the transition to extra sustainable manufacturing. Developments within the high-tech trade can contribute to attaining this by means of options,” mentioned Lisanne van Oosterhoud, Subsequent Tech Meals Factoryes Program Supervisor. This program workplace conducts the intersection between meals processing and excessive expertise.At Subsequent Tech Meals Manufacturing facility, meals processing corporations, high-tech suppliers and machine builders work collectively to develop, take a look at and implement robotics, synthetic intelligence and different progressive applied sciences in meals processing.

Van Oosterhoud: “The Netherlands has a powerful place in excessive expertise and meals. To keep up this place, it is very important carry these sectors collectively in order that they will reinforce one another.

NextGen Hitech

Subsequent Tech Meals Manufacturing facility is a part of the hands-free meals processing beneath the NXTGEN HIGHTECH Development Fund programme, a large-scale nationwide program to make sure the Netherlands is a pacesetter in superior expertise and resolve societal challenges. The NXTGEN HIGHTECH program invests round €1 billion till 2030 and, with greater than 330 companions, will enhance the Dutch economic system by means of a variety of innovation tasks. The Nationwide Development Fund helps this program with 450 million euros. This system focuses on completely different areas resembling power, semiconductors, biomedical applied sciences, composites, laser communications, and agri-food. A roadmap is developed for every sector with a future imaginative and prescient for the sphere, expertise and different developments. The agri-food area has three parts: open farming and fruit farming, greenhouse farming, and meals processing. Subsequent Tech Meals Manufacturing facility specifically focuses on the meals processing element.

Automation

What precisely can high-tech options – resembling sensors, digital twins, and synthetic intelligence – assist inside a meals manufacturing unit? “As completely different sizes and varieties seem in the marketplace, meals producers have extra steps of their manufacturing course of. These steps require people. What’s mirrored in all points of meals manufacturing and manufacturing is the reliance on labor. That is very troublesome as a result of There’s additionally an enormous labor scarcity.” To exchange human fingers within the manufacturing course of and supply the required flexibility, good manufacturing traces are wanted. “We then have to create an automatic manufacturing line that may course of all various kinds of meals in numerous methods,” says the options supervisor. That was troublesome.

At present, automation is principally used to supply giant portions of the identical merchandise. In reality, it’s nonetheless a significant problem to automate the work of individuals in meals factories. The robots should then be capable to acknowledge, choose and course of completely different merchandise. Martinet: “That will sound easy, nevertheless it’s not. How forcefully can the robotic arm squeeze the produce? How are you going to be sure you’re deciding on solely the freshest produce and omitting the brown lettuce, for instance? How are you going to ensure the dressing bag goes neatly into the salad bowl And that every little thing seems to be stunning? For people, these are quite simple duties, however they’re very troublesome to clarify to a pc.

Robots vs people

As well as, expertise might be able to carry out some duties higher than people sooner or later. For instance, on the subject of cleansing. Martinet: “We now function with strict guidelines on the subject of cleansing manufacturing traces. This may be improved sooner or later with sensors. These small gadgets can monitor precisely the place micro organism are current so we are able to enhance the cleansing course of. As a part of NXTGEN, Marel desires to do extra Analysis on find out how to make manufacturing traces smarter.”NXTGEN helps with improvement. Because of this venture and the assist from the Development Fund, we are able to now develop sooner. Community and mutual connections are additionally essential right here.

© Nick Bockelaar

Private meals

The present pattern is for long-range comfort for finish prospects, however Martinet is seeking to take it a step additional. He believes that – with new applied sciences – future meals manufacturing will be fully tailor-made to go well with a selected finish person. “Our ambition is a great product line the place you, as a client, can assemble your personal meals the way in which you need. I envision it as a extra personalised model of HelloFresh, for instance. It is going to then be attainable to decide on further greens, much less sauce or different changes for every meal in accordance with your needs.” This good manufacturing line can then be positioned, for instance, in a regional grocery store distribution centre.

Along with the above technical challenges of the automated manufacturing course of, there’s one other logistical problem. As a result of completely different manufacturing traces naturally require contemporary merchandise. “You do not wish to throw away contemporary greens and herbs. That is why we search for alternatives to enhance buying processes utilizing AI. The purpose is at all times to have sufficient merchandise in inventory whereas throwing away as little as attainable. As a result of we goal to contribute to lowering Meals waste.”

© Mariel

Constructing sturdy relationships

Know-how can and should go a great distance in altering meals manufacturing to fulfill as we speak’s wants and calls for. Reaching this requires cooperation, Martinet and Van Oosterhoud agree. “The improvements we’re engaged on now are usually not about one firm particularly. It’s about the entire chain,” says Martinet. “Constructing ecosystems to work collectively is essential on this regard,” provides Van Oosterhoud. The premise of that is belief. Excessive-tech applied sciences and merchandise could make an actual distinction within the meals trade. However you aren’t getting there by simply throwing a product over the fence. It takes , long-term relationship to realize entry to good apps. That is what we wish to contribute to with Subsequent Tech Meals Manufacturing facility.

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