The list of attendees read like a “Who’s Who” of the global grain processing industry, with representatives from many of the world’s biggest flour milling companies in attendance as well as officials from major rice and feed milling companies.
“We have 750 people participating here today,” said Stefan Scheiber, CEO of Bühler. “It is a truly global event in the grain processing industry. The majority of the grain processing capacity of the world is represented here with the owners and CEOs and technical directors for those global companies.”
The central theme of the event was looking for innovative, sustainable solutions to feed a growing world population that is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. According to Bühler, approximately 70% of global water consumption and one-third of global energy are used for food and feed production, while 24% of global greenhouse emissions, which have been linked to climate change, result from agriculture.
Also, about one-third of all food produced is wasted, said Ian Roberts, chief technology officer of Bühler. He said in developing countries, most of the waste occurs post-harvest, with poor logistics and storage and inadequate cleaning being the major culprits. But developed countries also waste about one-third of all food produced, with most of the responsibility resting with consumers who throw food away.
Reflecting this dichotomy, the estimated cost of obesity-related health problems, mostly in developed countries, is about $2 trillion, which is about 2.8% of global GDP, while an estimated 840 million people worldwide suffer from hunger.
“So one-third of global energy is going into the food supply chain and one-third of that is just wasted,” Roberts said. “It is a huge opportunity and responsibility for our industry to try to do something about this.”
Scheiber noted that the world is using about 1.6 times the resources than can be replenished each year.
“Obviously that is not a sustainable situation,” he said. “Bühler is stepping up to bring the industry together to try to discuss not only the problems but also solutions for solving those problems. We take the responsibility of the food and feed industry for a sustainable world very seriously. It’s time to step up and make a difference.”
Bühler executives discussed several megatrends that will be featured over the next 30 years or so – particularly nutrition, food and feed safety, sustainability and the Internet of Things (IoT).
“As the leader of our industry, we want to anticipate megatrends and lead the discussion about how our businesses will evolve in the future,” Scheiber said. “Our industry plays a key role – since corn, rice and wheat are the most important staple foods for 4 billion people. And with the impending protein gap, grain processing will become even more important.”
Roberts said protein demand is expected to increase dramatically through 2050, as it is estimated 265 million tonnes of protein will need to be added to the global diet by that time.
“We are not going to do that purely through livestock meat,” he said. “So as a company we are investing very heavily in different ways to deliver protein to the global markets. Pulses, lentils, peas and other plant proteins give us a fantastic opportunity to meet those goals. They have a low water footprint and are significantly less impactful than the traditional protein production.”
He said insects and algae also have the potential to help meet soaring protein demand.
“Insects have a shorter timeline and are more targeted toward animal feed,” he said. “Obviously fish eat insects naturally. And algae are viewed as a sustainable protein source for the future.”
Roberts said significant progress has been made in terms of food and feed safety, but even greater strides will be made in this area in the near future. He said alternatives to the current method of killing bacteria in food through heat treatment likely will be developed.
“The problem is when you do that you also damage the heat sensitive nutritional elements,” he said. “We need to have treatments that enable us to maintain the nutrition. Thereafter we also need to think about bacteria – what impact does the good bacteria have on us? How can we do this selectively and only eliminate the pathogens that we don’t want in foods. That’s the pathway we’re on.”
Another megatrend, described by Bühler as the “Internet of Things” (IoT), will be an important driver moving forward as computer, sensor and even robotic technology provides opportunities for food and feed processing companies to operate at maximum efficiency.
“The impact of the Internet of Things is mind blowing,” said Johannes Wick, CEO of the company’s Grains and Food division. “Our solutions become smarter with every new generation, as we include more and more sensors that allow different devices to connect and exchange information. For our customers, this translates into higher quality and increased output at a lower operating cost.”
Dan Dye, CEO of the United States’ largest milling company, Ardent Mills, Denver, Colorado, said the forward-thinking nature of the three-day program made the long trip to Switzerland worthwhile.
“Bringing together the industry on a broad scale to look at different ideas and different ways of doing things is valuable to us,” he said. “It’s not just the machinery and the processes; it’s also having a different vision of what the food system is going to look like down the road. It’s good for us because it challenges us to think about how our business operates.”
New equipment on display
When they weren’t listening to presentations on megatrends, attendees were invited to a display area where Bühler, which invests 5% of its turnover each year in research and development, showcased 30 of its latest innovations. Key innovations on display included:
- The CombiMill process with increased flexibility. The process allows whole wheat flour for flatbreads, dark and standard flours to be produced using the same milling system. Bühler said this allows customers to benefit from increased flexibility in production.
- A new generation of the high precision-scale Tubex. The scale reduces energy costs by more than 90%, maximizes food safety and features a user-friendly control.
- Energy-efficient pasta drying with Ecothermatic. This latest model features energy savings of up to 40% and an increased capacity of 5,500 kg per hour.
- Novablue with increased food safety. The sieve cleaner is easy to detect, both visually and through metal detectors, which is a critical food safety feature.
Attendees were asked to vote on the most innovative product and the winner was a tubular push conveyor called Tubo. Bühler said it significantly reduces energy consumption compared to conventional conveying systems, and the raw material is conveyed more gently. With its three-dimensional plant layouts, it allows for much greater flexibility in plant design and its sanitation and safety advantages mean that return on investment is sustainably reached quickly, the company said.
Also on display was Bühler’s PesaMill, a new type of industrial process for producing high quality and sanitary Atta flour, which is used to make flat bread such as chapatti, roti and puri, particularly in India.
Bühler Networking Days attendees watched a demonstration of the PesaMill and learned about the advantages of producing Atta flour on this machine as opposed to the traditional Chakki mill, which can only handle 300 kilos of wheat per hour and is usually exclusively geared to producing one type of Atta flour. In addition, the core of the Chakki mill is its grinding stone, which no longer meets today’s requirements for food safety and production consistency.
“We have been developing this process for some years now because it’s pretty difficult to get the special characteristics needed for this type of flour,” said Nicholas Trounce, head of product management for Bühler’s Grain Milling Unit. “We needed high starch damage, which allows us to have high water absorption in the flour. It took quite a long time to develop this type of technology but we do have the first plant up and running in India. Our customers are very happy because we can increase extraction yields by about 1.5%, there is lower energy usage by about 10% and we are able to achieve the same flour characteristics as the old Chakki mills.”
Trounce noted that while India is the primary Atta flour market, there are a number of areas around the world with significant Indian populations, which creates a greater global demand for the PesaMill.
Mohamednur Ibrahim Khalif, managing director of Alpha Grain Millers Ltd., Nairobi, Kenya, said he saw several innovative products on the display floor that he would like to eventually install in his milling facility.
“I saw the NIR process where you can check ash content, protein content and moisture without going to the lab,” he said. “That would be a big advantage for us if we had that. The conveying system I saw here would also be an advantage for us to have going into the future. I think eventually you will see those things in Africa.”