May 27, 2024

Dairy’s a vital source of nutrition – and a big carbon emitter. See how DeLaval and Tetra Pak help farmers and food producers reduce emissions.

“When I was 19, I wanted to change the world. I went to Peru, and the water made me really sick, so I decided to study bioengineering to help people get clean water. For many years, I did all kinds of other things, but now it feels like I’ve gotten the job I wanted when I was 19.”

The job that Nicole Uvenbeck is so happy about has her heading up the recently launched Factory Sustainable Solutions team at Tetra Pak. Here, one of the main questions she’s trying to answer is, “Is it possible to reduce dairy's carbon footprint with more efficient factories?”

We’ll get back to Nicole later to find out how she’s working to do just that, but let’s go back to where it all starts: the cows on the farm.

cows on field

Healthy and happy cows live longer and produce more milk

DeLaval produces dairy and farming machinery and offers digital solutions and advisory services to help farmers improve milk quality and animal welfare and reduce the footprint of dairy. For Cecilia Bågenvik, Vice President of Animal Intelligence & Welfare Solutions at DeLaval, cow welfare is essential.

“Cow welfare is not just about cows living comfortable lives. It also helps produce more high-quality milk—and ultimately, dairy with a lower carbon footprint,” says Cecilia.

Studies suggest that cow welfare is associated with increased cow lifespan and productivity. Essentially, healthy and happy cows live longer – and produce more milk. That means you get lower methane emissions per kg of milk produced and reduced carbon footprint.

“If you look at a cow as a production unit, it takes years before she becomes a milking cow. Until then, she’s just emitting methane and ammonium. You want to limit that time because it’s about getting as much milk as possible from as few animals as possible,” says Cecilia.

“Cow welfare is not just about cows living comfortable lives. It also helps produce more high-quality milk—and ultimately, dairy with a lower carbon footprint.”

A digital solution that makes herd management easier

Joanna Daugaard, Senior Advisor, Sustainability Business Development in Digital Services, has worked with Cecilia on a herd management solution and other services like predictive health that help farmers get an overview of their cows so they can be as efficient and productive as possible.

“We developed a behaviour analysis solution to improve herd management. It measures how the cows are doing, for example, if they're getting sick,” says Joanna. “It can also measure a cow’s reproductive state. Say a farm's average first pregnancy is 26 months and we can decrease it to 24 months, that's two months of more productivity and fewer emissions,” says Joanna.

man sitting next to the cows

Making dairy processing more efficient with upgrades 

Julia Ehrnberg works with sustainability solutions at Tetra Pak. She’s part of the Services team supporting customers with their installed processing and packaging bases, focusing on optimising and improving productivity, profitability and sustainability.

Often, the service consists of providing specific components and upgrades for processing or packaging lines. Water filtration solutions can reduce water use, energy reduction upgrades are available for different types of equipment, and mixed-phase reduction helps customers minimise product loss when switching between water and product. 

“We can be part of the journey from planning a new factory to designing it and deciding on equipment to install to make production as efficient and sustainable as possible.”

“Where a new filling machine, processing equipment, or factory design represents a significant investment, choosing to upgrade an existing line, for example, can be more cost-effective while also improving sustainability values,” says Julia. “Many of our customers are small and can’t invest in big equipment, but even small upgrades can help them save a lot. Some upgrades can reduce water consumption in filling lines by up to 95%,” she says and continues:

“In some cases, we help assess our customers’ operations from an end-to-end perspective. We look at their lines and plants to understand their specific situation and help them with customised plans to improve in the short, medium and long term,” says Julia.

Going a step further: Designing a factory to be as sustainable as possible

Back with Nicole, the Factory Sustainable Solutions team was started to help customers who want to design their factory with sustainability in mind from the beginning. 

“We can be part of the journey from planning a new factory to designing it and deciding on equipment to install to make production as efficient and sustainable as possible,” says Nicole.

Customers can, for example, implement reverse osmosis and nanofiltration solutions to reuse process water and CIP detergent. And then there’s an increased focus on energy sources.

man in a tetra pak factory

Recovering and reusing as much energy as possible 

“The change to renewable energy is so important. Approximately 70% of the dairy industry's energy usage comes from producing heat in the form of steam. It’s necessary for ultra-high-temperature (UHT) processing, for example, but we need to produce it with renewable energy options rather than fossil fuels,” says Nicole. 

“One step in the right direction is to use solar thermal to replace some of the fossil fuels. Another step is to reuse waste heat using heat pumps. Heat pumps are a new addition to our portfolio and these can take surplus heat energy and bring it back to the system, so less new energy is required,” she says.

“We’re a big actor in the food and beverage industry, and I want to see how far we can take that influence and inspire others when it comes to sustainability.” 

Typically, condensate from a UHT process could be around 50°. It often goes to waste because that temperature isn’t hot enough to heat anything and not cold enough to cool anything.

“A heat pump can pick up 50°, boost it to a higher temperature and send it back to the system. We had a customer that was working with a heat pump supplier to recover surplus heat from streams that would otherwise be wasted. The supplier suggested changing the temperature in certain places, but if you look at a processing line without understanding the food process, you might not get it right, and I think that’s where our processing expertise is crucial,” says Nicole.

Bringing the industry together in centres – and task forces

Something that Tetra Pak and DeLaval have in common is an ambition to get different players in the industry working together so we can make some truly sustainable progress.

To that end, Joanna has been focusing on the Milk Sustainability Center lately, a DeLaval and John Deere partnership that aims to help dairy farmers become more sustainable. The Milk Sustainability Center’s objective is to bring actors together and combine expertise to give farmers actionable insights.

“Farmers are a low-margin business, and they're very operationally focused, so they’re not the ones to try to figure out how they can become more sustainable. We want to get everyone around the farmers involved in supporting the farmers,” says Joanna.

On Tetra Pak’s side, Julia highlights the Dairy Processing Task Force. It’s a coalition that aims to unite the dairy sector and boost dairy processing decarbonisation. The task force is exploring how to lower emissions without compromising output or nutritional value.

two people in a tetra pak factory

“We’re a big actor in the food and beverage industry, and I want to see how far we can take that influence and inspire others when it comes to sustainability. It's all about mindset. I want everyone in Services, in Processing, on farms, to always be thinking about sustainability.”

For Nicole, the inspiration is already there – as it has been from the beginning.

“This new job kind of closes the circle for me. I’ve come a long way from that 19-year-old who dreamed of helping people. Now I’m making a difference with heat pumps, water recovery solutions and solar thermal installations, and I can’t wait to see what else we can do to make a difference. Now I dream about being able to supply everything for a new factory and think of new ideas that challenge the traditional way of producing dairy!” says Nicole.

Interested in learning more about how we help our customers improve dairy processing? Read this case to discover what the future of dairy production looks like.

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