The dairy industry energy crisis: why advanced technology is the answer

Are you ready to move toward more sustainable practices
calendar icon 26 April 2023
clock icon 4 minute read

The energy crisis is an ever-present threat, with industries across the UK and Europe being impacted. The food production industry is no exception to this; energy prices have reached some of the highest levels in Europe. As a result, the energy crunch has caused production costs to skyrocket, even leading to the outright closure of some dairies and food processors unable to keep up.

The European Milk Board has called on the EU to implement measures for the dairy and food production sectors, including introducing energy price caps for dairy farms, milk processors and other stakeholders in the dairy production chain and the food production sector. Yet, many dairy farmers still cannot cope with the explosion in energy costs, and a key yet overlooked reason for that is simply because their production processes are out of date. Institutional changes are needed – and advancements in technology are the answer.

Technology, automation and the dairy sector

The world of technology and automation has become increasingly helpful across numerous industries in recent years. When it comes to dairy processing, automation has played a massive role in improving sustainability and cutting energy costs. The use of quality automation programs and the implementation of new technology can be highly beneficial among dairy processors when used correctly.

Across industries in general, the rise of automation and technology in production lines has created a myriad of benefits. Automated processes maintain product quality and consistency, removing the element of human error that can lead to inconsistency in product appearance, taste and other factors. When it comes to the food industry especially, even minor deviations from expected standards in quality can lead to a product being rejected by customers.

Automation plays a key role in the move to sustainability as well. Optimising processes and reducing waste are key components of the drive for more sustainable production. However, due to the rising energy costs, it’s finally time for dairy productions to address whether their process of operations is really as energy-efficient as it could be. When utilised effectively, processors can achieve their sustainability goals, but as it stands financially, companies may not be able to survive the mounting automation costs.

Pasteurisation; a technology past its prime?

A tried and tested method to purify milk products, pasteurisation is a critical pillar of the dairy production sector. The process has existed for nearly hundreds of years, and over time manufacturers have continued to streamline the process to improve product quality and reduce waste for increased production capacity.

Pasteurisation involves killing any harmful bacteria by heating milk to approximately 72°C for at least 15 seconds, ensuring that it is safe to drink whilst also prolonging its shelf-life. The process needs to be efficient enough to reliably kill any harmful microbes in milk without affecting the taste or nutritional value of the milk.

But like with all technology and processes as time goes on, eventually tried and tested processes become outdated and overtaken by up-and-coming technologies. Pasteurisation, especially in the current energy crisis, has become an inefficient production in comparison to the rise of its newer technology counterparts. Dairy processing lines cannot afford to maintain the high demands of energy needed to rapidly heat and cool products over and over.

Sustainability in the current energy climate

Whilst it may be easier for companies to stick with the technology and processes that they already know, it is important to explore alternative avenues in order to bypass the stresses of the energy climate entirely.

Within the food and drink industry, process energy reduction and adopting more optimised processes can be a struggle. Processes such as pasteurisation often lack sufficient monitoring to track energy consumption, and so realising there is a need to cut down drastically on energy use may be a step taken far too late.

Dairy producers at every level must take steps toward more sustainable practices and move away from those with high energy demands. Thankfully, well-tested green technologies are available and are ready to take over from legacy equipment and practices that have existed for so long. It’s just a matter of companies choosing to take the first steps towards adopting these exciting innovations to reduce their carbon footprint and advance their energy efficiencies – and it has never been a better time to do so.

Pictured above: article author Ruben Andreas Riksted. Photo courtesy of Lyras

Ruben Andreas Riksted

Marketing Manager at Lyras
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