The company said the technology is an improvement on the traditional method of manual sampling and adjusting. The cloud-based service is designed to reduce moisture deviation, improve dryer yield and reduce dryer energy consumption, while ensuring food and feed safety.
It has been proven in first phase testing with US customers, it added.
In an industry where margins are tight and even a small percentage gain can increase profitability, a net increase of 1% in moisture gain in final product water content, through using this service, would represent a return on investment (ROI) of US $300,000 a year for a typical feed dryer operation. This translates to an annual energy saving of US $20,000, said the Swiss group.
Paul McKeithan, head of digital Services, at Bühler told us that MoisturePro is best suited for bulk solid products.
When asked what kinds of food and feed MoisturePro already proceses, he said: "While others are in the evaluation stage, currently we are running applications in pet food."
How it works
Bühler explained how the cloud-based service works: As the product is discharged through a chute, data from moisture sensors is relayed to the dryer control software. Control algorithms continuously adjust production parameters so that the optimum moisture content is achieved and maintained throughout processing.
Moisture content of around 20% of the dryer’s output is sampled continuously and the necessary adjustments to the dryer are made immediately, eliminating the need for manual sampling and the associated time gaps between sampling, testing, and making dryer adjustments, said the developer.
The fully automated method increases the frequency of sampling and moves more of the product closer to the target moisture content, said Bühler. The service improves energy efficiency by making the correct dryer control decisions quickly and reliably, it continued.
Moisture content targets can be input by operator or by recipe control, and the dryer will automatically establish and maintain the optimal drying environment for the remaining production run. Bühler said this eliminates the wasted energy and product that can result from manually attempting to reach a moisture target.
The service also allows for real-time data and dynamic reporting, said the company.
McKeithan said that making data connections to processors in such traditional market segments comes with some challenges. These challenges come more from a reluctance to share production data, and not from a technical perspective, he added.
"What we have discovered is that after initial hesitancy, most customers are willing to enter into a data sharing relationship."
Bühler said MoisturePro is one of its digital services powered by on its Insights cloud platform, which relies on Microsoft technology. Another such service is LumoVision, which can identify and remove maize that has been contaminated with toxic aflatoxin.
The company says its goal is to build sustainable food value chains, reduce 30% of waste and 30% of energy in the processes of their customers by 2020. Digital technologies and services are a game changer in being able to meet these goals, it said.
"Leveraging the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud technology we can make our expertise available to our customers at every stage of the drying process and drive real change,” said McKeithan.