May 25, 2023

Lavango Engineering LT and KTU are developing a technological innovation in the food industry that they intend to patent

The food industry equipment production group UAB Lavango Engineering LT together with Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) has launched a new technological development project during this first cooperation initiative

The food industry equipment production group UAB Lavango Engineering LT together with Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) has launched a new technological development project during this first cooperation initiative - developing a smart spiral freezer that has no equivalent in the Lithuanian food industry equipment market. Lavango will seek to patent this unique equipment in the nearest future – after testing prototypes of refrigeration equipment enhanced with smart solutions and developed by the university's process development team.

The spiral freezer used in the fish, meat, dairy and bakery industries is a very important device in the technological production process, but it is often the factor that limits the production potential, because the freezers must be defrosted and hygienically cleaned to achieve efficiency. This requires significant energy consumption, and the efficiency of the equipment is reduced due to constant downtime. The innovation developed by Lavango Engineering LT together with KTU should fundamentally change the established market standard of these technologies and make the process of freezing food products much more efficient, reducing the energy consumption of such freezers and extending the operating time of the device.

Customers are already waiting for an innovative product

Design work for the new product began this year. The first project to use a smart spiral freezer is scheduled to run in 2022 in late summer. The company has already found its first customers.

"We can offer our customers a variety of standard and non-standard refrigeration equipment solutions tailored to their technological lines and production processes, but we want to further improve refrigeration processes by creating a smart, self-learning appliance. The company's innovation department started developing such a device back in 2020, but we saw the need to improve the vision and initial solutions. This is how a joint project with a team of KTU researchers was born. As the standard in the food industry, depending on the product (open or packaged), the operating time of refrigeration equipment can be up to 48 or 72 hours, and our first results suggest that the operating time of refrigeration equipment can be extended by 50% and additionally reduce the required electricity consumption by at least 30%. For food businesses, this would not only be a major breakthrough in streamlining existing production lines due to the potential to increase production rates, but would also help to achieve this at lower energy costs. This innovation should change the way the food industry works in the future. "Sustainability indicators are especially relevant taking into account the changes in electricity prices in the Lithuanian market, ”says Gediminas Burnys, Head of the Innovation Department of UAB Lavango Engineering LT.

KTU will perform laboratory experiments

In this project, KTU's team of automation engineers is conducting laboratory experiments to develop smart solutions that will be adapted to the company's existing spiral freezers.

“Our team of engineers is developing mathematical modules that allow flexible design of product recipes based on non-invasive monitoring tools. It is important to us that the equipment is able to maintain the temperature of the outgoing product as autonomously as possible. During the production process, this would allow the unit to recognize specific conditions and adapt the required recipe to make refrigeration time more efficient and the process shorter. Until now, the market standard has been that the devices operate in a predetermined (open) mode, which requires the adjustment of human care or additional production process as the working conditions of the product and equipment change” – says Renaldas Urniežius.

The goal is a smart device that works extremely efficiently

It is the introduction of stand-alone solutions that will transform conventional spiral freezers used in the food industry into smart devices that can select the most suitable refrigeration program for a particular product, thus reducing the duration of the refrigeration process and saving the required electricity consumption for the process. At the same time, the cooling modes selected on the basis of software or non-invasive monitoring sensors will ensure regular maintenance of the right refrigeration temperature and will determine why the freezers will be able to operate longer with less frequent hygienic cleaning intervals.

Lavango Engineering LT annually invests in the development of new innovations, and the group also owns one of the most advanced industrial robotics companies in Iceland. "Although this is our first partnership with KTU, we are glad to find the right synergy and the necessary competencies in the local market. We see this as an important potential for science-business partnerships. Our latest project only proves that innovative algorithms born in laboratories become real business solutions, ”notes G. Burnys, a representative of Lavango Engineering LT.

Developed project is funded by the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA) with the state budget of the Republic of Lithuania. The received financial support is amounted to 100 thousand euros and UAB Lavango Group allocated another 15 thousand euros for additionally created solutions.

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