News Capacity Building at Food Pilot in Melle: New Test Hall With New Pilot machines to Help Companies Develop Products
Food Pilot is increasingly experimenting with highly innovative raw materials or products. Especially the extraction and processing of protein from alternative sources such as plants, insects and algae is a rapidly expanding and flourishing field of research.
The alternative (protein) sources are still in the explorative phase of primary production, which is why the amount of raw material that is used is often small. In fact, the amount of proteins that are obtained from those sources are so small, that the initial processing tests are not feasible on an actual pilot scale.
To experiment with these small amounts of raw materials that are rich in protein, Food Pilot will have a unique extra space with small-scale innovative as well as profitable equipment. The test devices are specifically made for operations with 0.5 to 5 kg of product. With this machine, researchers meet the demands of SMEs.
The Innolab project that is involved receives 512,000 euros in funding from the ERDF and the Province of East Flanders co-finances. The new test hall and installations will be finished in the winter of 2023.
For over 10 years, food companies have been testing new recipes, ingredients and production processes at the ILVO and Flanders’ FOOD test center Food Pilot. They can always count on a wide variety of pilot devices, lab analyzes and targeted advice. Such a test environment is unique in and outside of Flanders. The 550 pilot tests that are carried out every year at Food Pilot result in concrete applications for customers. Anno 2022 Food Pilot is equipped with over 50 semi-industrial machines, a test kitchen, a taste lab and 8 analysis labs.
Small-Scale Equipment for Farm-To-Fork Projects
This project specifically invests in small-scale equipment for washing, cutting, grinding, separating, drying and shaping raw materials that are rich in proteins. Equipment for the pre-treatment of raw materials is used before the protein extraction. Equipment that is used after the extraction is used for product development.
We purchased small-scale washing and cutting equipment for the initial processing of raw materials.
We also invested in a separator device to remove tough parts such as the peel and for pureeing fruits. With this equipment, we can effectively process raw materials before protein extraction.
Moreover, the flaking roller mill will turn the material that will be extracted into flakes, because the flakes have a larger surface they will make more contact with the extraction media.
The protein extraction equipment that is already present in the machine park makes various modes of extraction possible. The equipment consists of reaction vessels, a decanter, centrifuge and filtration devices. It can also extract less voluminous amounts of protein. This is important because certain further food processes place high demands on the protein powders. The commercially available protein powders show shortcomings and little variation when it comes to this.
Next, we purchased a lab fluid bed dryer to dry granular products which is suitable for a batch volume of 0.5 to 5 kg. This machine compliments the lab spray dryer and lab extruder with high moisture extrusion we already have.
Finally, we bought a kitchen robot for mixing during the product development phase.
We will install a cereal bar machine In the new hall of the pilot factory to meet the demands of food companies that would like to develop protein bars and healthy snacks.
Giving Companies a Chance to Grow
The new pilot and lab devices do not only answer the need for opportunities to experiment with alternative proteins in a variety of ways, but they also create opportunities for innovative start-ups when it comes to product development. These start-ups are often looking for small-scale equipment like ours to start their first commercial production.
The renovation of the new hall on Food Pilot site creates room to experiment with the new equipment.
Because of the purchases we have made, we can ensure and stimulate the development of complete processing programs to turn raw materials that contain proteins into new products.
The products that have been and will be developed at Food Pilot can be found almost all food subsectors: fruit, vegetables, meat, bakeries, dairy products and prepared meals such as new snacks or new breakfast bars.