Vacuum conveying systems are the future for poultry processing plants. Ismo Viitanen of the Finnish company MariMatic Oy, explains how this system can maximise efficiency and hygiene standards at the plant economically and in an environmentally friendly way.
The poultry industry is growing fast. According to the World Agricultural Supply and Demand estimates (WASDE) August 2016 report, 48 billion pounds of poultry are expected to be produced in the US alone in 2017, an even bigger increase than that predicted in the July 2016 report. What is the reason for this significant growth? Firstly, poultry has maintained an excellent reputation as meat which is low in fat, but it is also an example of produce which isn’t prohibited by any religious doctrine. Furthermore, poultry is lightweight due to this low amount of fat and, as a result, a lot of good meat can be easily extracted.
In many poultry processing plants, traditional methods of waste management, such as fixed conveyor systems, are still being used. These systems have been designed to move large amounts of material at a quick pace, and at a lower cost than those incurred using manual labour. They consist of horizontal, inclined or vertical devices which transport materials from point A to B. In a typical poultry plant, a traditional conveyor system is likely to be one metre wide and have 100 metre length capacity.
Whilst many plant operators are happy with the way a conveyor system works, an alternative was required in the poultry industry to help streamline the entire process to develop quicker speeds for the processing plants lines, and to provide efficient product handling. With a more efficient system in place, not only would less labour be needed for processing, but the poultry items will also be effectively separated, ensuring that a high amount of food is edible for human or animal consumption.
In recent years, the market has embraced alternative technologies such as vacuum conveying, which has impacted efficiency in poultry processing plants. A vacuum conveying system works like a giant vacuum cleaner. Materials are collected at suction points and conveyed through the closed pipeline via a strong vacuum safely to various destination points.
This forward-thinking vacuum system can demonstrate innumerable benefits when compared to traditional conveying methods. Firstly, this system can provide a safer and more hygienic working environment. Not only are products and waste parts separated immediately by this automated system, but with this technology, waste products do not need to be manually washed or handled, storage bins can become redundant, and the risk of slipping on food remains are eradicated – maximising hygiene and food safety.
Certain modern conveying systems are also likely to use a Cleaning-in-Place (CIP) washing system – a solution which handles the washing process with several washing and rinsing cycles. Hygiene should be of paramount importance in poultry processing plants, as the items will be used for human consumption.
Efficiency is also a key for processing plants as operators are constantly striving to be the best and maintain wide profit margins. In a large, modern poultry plant, vacuum conveying systems can offer a relatively quick payback, even by means of labour savings, as employees can complete work productively alongside the automated system. Additionally, the plant premises can also be smaller as it doesn’t have to allow space for belt conveyors – consequently reducing the total power consumption of the plant.
Inevitably, having a smaller operating space will positively impact energy bills and the overall economics of running a poultry processing plant. However, it isn’t just economics which should be of particular concern to plant operators. In recent times, thanks to events such as COP22 – a global climate change conference – plant operators must also consider their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and ensure that plants are operating in an environmentally friendly way. As mentioned previously, energy consumption can be decidedly reduced when vacuum conveying systems are used, but investing in newer waste solutions can minimise water usage. Vacuum conveying systems consume no water for transportation and produce zero pollution. Not having to rely on water for operation is crucial for processing plants as they are usually located in remote areas close to where the poultry is situated, where there will often be very limited water supply and no municipal water treatment.
Food safety concerns and productivity are primary factors, which have driven many poultry plant upgrades in recent years. Poultry plant operators must understand that innovative vacuum conveying solutions will not only ensure that waste is effectively managed, but that it will be managed in an efficient, economic and environmentally friendly way. An ancient innovation of pipe combined with state-of-the-art vacuum conveying solution is the future for safe and efficient waste and by-products management in the food processing industry.