Currently, most of food industries rely on fossil fuels (mostly natural gas) for their energy intensive processes, such as heating, cooking, pasteurization or drying. Thus, the utilisation of renewable electricity is one of the keys for a food value chain with reduced impact in the environment, more resilient and independent of energy import. Boost electrification of unit processes in food industry using renewable energy sources is imperative. One of the solutions are emerging electric-based food processing technologies.
These technologies can replace traditional technologies with higher efficiency (up to 50%) of energy usage and with additional valuable benefits, such as improved organoleptic (colour, sensorial and nutritional) and conservation (self-life) properties. Some examples of these prominent technologies in food processing are the Ohmic heating (OH), Pulsed Electric Field (PEF), Microwaves (MW), Radiofrequency (RF), High-Pressure Processing (HPP), High-Pressure Homogenization (HPH) or High-Intensity Light Pulses (HILP). Additionally, new methodologies of energy efficiency also should be adopted, such as the re-use of residual heat from thermic processes (e.g. for office heating or process pre-heating).
Techno-economic assessment (TEA) is a method of analysing the economic performance of an industrial process, product, or service. At present, TEA is most commonly used to analyse technologies in the chemical, bioprocess, petroleum, energy, and similar industries. TEA can be used for studying new technologies or optimizing existing ones. Techno-economic analysis is performed using a techno-economic model, which is an integrated process and cost model. Ideally, a techno-economic model represents the best current understanding of the system being modeled. It combines elements of process design, process modeling, equipment sizing, capital cost estimation, and operating cost estimation. As an additional feature to this type of assessment, the calculation of Carbon Footprint associated to processes can be highly relevant to help on adopting greener solutions.
The main goal of this initiative is to a develop simple/basic tool integrating techno-economic models with Carbon Footprint calculation for emerging food processing technologies, combining the expertise in food science and engineering from Colab4Food (C4F) with the expertise in TEA from Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).
The aimed models will be developed based on knowledge sharing, joint research and development of both entities under this initiative. This will be the first step of a medium-long term strategy for strengthening bilateral relations based in future joint services and projects.
By developing the aimed simple/basic tool for emerging food processing technologies, we will make available for the food sector enterprises a new, accessible and comprehensive tool for the evaluation of the associated risk of adopting these studied technologies. Additionally, to the aimed tool, a technical/scientific paper on TEA, with practical application examples on emerging technologies, will be developed with the objective of simplifying knowledge and technology transfer.
Our solution will contribute for both digital and green transition of enterprises, by using simple and innovative digital tools that model production processes in their decision-making procedures for evaluating the adoption of greener solutions. Moreover, the proposed tool has the potential for enabling a faster uptake of emerging processing technologies from food industry. This tool will support companies in an easier risk assessment associated to the replacement of traditional processing technologies by emerging technologies, changing the type of energy source (fossil to renewable) and analysing their exposure (economic effect and impact) to the energy market volatility. After this first step of developing a simple/basic tool and the technical/scientific paper under this innovative bilateral initiative, we aim to scale up the proposed results for more advanced/complex models through joint services to the food sector and joint R&D&I projects.
In a medium-term perspective and building on the results of this bilateral initiative, we will provide support to companies on adapting the developed tool to specific scenarios according to companies’ interest as a joint service of both entities (C4F and NMBU). At the same time, we envisage to mature new project ideas for joint preparation and submission of project proposals in future funding opportunities (Horizon Europe, EIT Food, EEA Grants) in order to foster cooperation between institutions.
This initiative will be executed by institutions from Norway and Portugal and will impact them directly. However, one of the bilateral relationship goals is to reproduce this model and apply it in other Southern countries. The complementary sharing of knowledge and skills will allow companies to easily evaluate the implementation of emerging technologies based on electrical sourcing. This will be beneficial for both geographical areas, since both countries are committed in adopting sustainability measures to decrease the dependency on fossil fuels and achieve carbon neutrality. Norway electricity production is almost entirely obtained from hydropower sources and the implementation of this technologies fits very well in this scenario, helping to have a more sustainable food value chain. This can be used as an example and the base for reproducibility in other countries, especially in Portugal. This partnership is a step forward for the promotion of relationships and cooperation between both Nordic and Southern European countries which face different adversities as consequence of climate change and show high disparities regarding their dependency on the use of fossil fuels and production of energy from renewable sources.
This partnership will be an opportunity to share knowledge with companies that continue to use conventional technologies based on fossil fuel energy on how to make the transition to a more environmentally friendly option. But also, with companies that are currently using electricity to have a tool that allow them to predict the impact of electricity price volatility on their business, as well to support the assessment of future investments on renewable and local electricity productions (e.g. solar/wind).
Specifically, this partnership can be a valuable opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which lack technical resources for evaluating the impact of adopting emerging technologies for their business and successfully make the energetic transition, without compromising their business stability.
- Professor Jorge Marchetti represents NMBU in this project which is funded by EEA Grants and coordinated by Associação Colab4Food in Portugal.