November 12, 2021
Advances in technology have expanded the scale, speed and productivity of dairy operations. No longer just a future ambition, smart technologies have become an enabler for greater production efficiency and profitability, ensuring the quality and safety of dairy products along the way. Today, these technologies are more pervasive across the entire value chain – from farming, storage and collection to transportation, processing, and packaging.
Due to the endless number of factors that can impact operations, dairy success depends on the ability to look at the interconnectedness of the entire value chain and leverage end-to-end solutions that help reduce costs, increase output and boost sustainability.
Dairy production expert and Product Manager at Tetra Pak, Anders Andren, shares his insights on how smart technologies can help optimise each step of the value chain.
Smart farming is a management concept focused on using modern information and communication technologies. The ability to make educated decisions based on reliable data points enables precision farming and optimises the human labour required.
Feed, animal health, manure, energy, water, soil and productivity[i] are all essential for farm productivity. Through automation and processing technologies, farmers can proactively monitor these variables and make timely interventions to improve reproduction, production efficiency, animal welfare and food safety.
Shifting to connected technology is becoming imperative for dairy farmers to remain competitive. “Those utilising automation technologies can remove much of the mundane work involved in the milking process,” says Anders, “freeing up time for effective farm management and increasing overall production efficiency.”
Poor milking procedures can cause stress for cows, which impacts yield quality and quantity. To ensure cow comfort, technology should always adapt to the cow, not the other way around. Adequate ventilation systems and manure management also improve herd conditions and generate higher and better-quality yields.
High-quality ambient dairy products depend on precise heat treatment that ensures commercial sterility without impairing flavour or nutritional value. In ultra-high temperature treatment (UHT), the goal is to maximise the destruction of microorganisms while minimising the chemical changes in the product. That means finding the optimal combination of temperature and processing time for different types of food.
“Due to the high quantity of energy involved in this heating process, producers need to leverage highly efficient UHT technology to secure consistent product quality while reducing product losses and water consumption,”says Anders.
Unlike direct UHT treatment, during indirect UHT treatment, the product does not come into direct contact with the heat source. With much of the heat energy recovered, indirect UHT is a cost-effective alternative for securing high product quality.
Adaptability to changing markets continues to be crucial for dairy producers. 'Healthy' products have long been popular, but the consumer's definition of healthy has changed over time. Once synonymous with low fat, it later came to mean 'fortified' (with e.g. calcium, minerals and Omega 3). Nowadays, healthy is more about reducing lactose and adding protein. Meeting shifting consumer trends requires a higher degree of production flexibility.
“Our OneStep technology combines separation, standardisation, blending, heat treatment, and more in a single step, without affecting end-product quality,” says Anders. “This makes the production process faster and more efficient, as it allows formulation variety and rapid product changeovers.”
Different streams such as a chocolate slurry or a protein concentrate can be added in the blending step. This allows dairy producers to create new products that serve niche markets and respond to consumer demand for health benefits and convenience.
A proactive approach to cleaning and maintenance is needed to ensure overall plant production efficiency and product safety. “By taking predictive and preventive maintenance measures, faulty parts in the processing line can be detected and replaced before a failure occurs,” says Anders.
In dairy cleaning operations, the objective is nearly always to achieve both chemical and bacteriological cleanliness. This involves thoroughly cleaning equipement surfaces with chemical detergents and then disinfecting. Doing this manually with brushes and detergent solutions is not only laborious but also ineffective – with systems having to be dismantled during the cleaning process.
“Cleaning-in-place (CIP) is designed to control the key cleaning parameters with very high accuracy, preventing potential food safety risks, increasing production uptime, and minimising utility consumption,” Anders explains.
To stay competitive, dairy producers need to leverage processing and packaging technologies that cut water usage and carbon emissions. OneStep technology also makes production more energy-efficient, reducing emissions and saving resources.
“By eliminating the need for a pasteuriser, producers require fewer and smaller storage tanks. This means less CIP and tank preparation, a smaller footprint, less maintenance and lower product losses,” says Anders.
“To maximise profits, manufacturers rely on high-performing filling machines that offer reliable, accurate, fast, and safe packaging optimise production output while contributing to lower water consumption,” says Anders.
For example, Tetra Pak® Water Filtering Station to Tetra Pak® E3/Speed Hyper can produce up to 40,000 portion packs per hour, using eBeam sterilisation technology to complete the task more quickly and efficiently.
Long-term dairy success depends on the ability to look at the entire value chain as one interconnected ecosystem. Those seeking to drive greater efficiency across operations through leveraging end-to-end solutions will benefit from reduced costs, increased output and an enhanced sustainability profile.