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levels of water pressure to shatter bacteria’s normal functions
and kill them. The company was one of the first in the world to
bring this technology to an industrial scale for the food indus-
try. In an NC Hyperbaric machine, packages of food are placed
in a plastic chamber inside a steel vat. Water fills the vat beyond
the volume of what a chamber of that size is able to hold. This
increases the pressure just as if the package had been dropped
deep into the ocean. While the high pressure kills microorgan-
isms, the process leaves nutrients and taste alone.
This process allows minimally processed foods to enjoy a
stable shelf life with less salt and no additives, says Purroy. NC
Hyperbaric’s newest and largest machine can process more than
two tons of food per hour.
This technique has attracted the attention of drug manufac-
turers as well. Purroy explains that NC Hyperbaric has now part-
nered with an American company to use high pressure to unfold
a protein, a better method for creating a drug used to treat mul-
NC Hyperbaric’s research department is now focused on devel-
oping technologies that combine pasteurization and sterilization,
melding high pressure and heat. “With heat, you need to heat the
product to 120 °C all the way to the middle, keep it there for a
time, cool it down,” says Purroy. “This is all quite damaging to
the quality of the product.”
The temperatures used for sterilization with high pressure,
however, will be significantly lower—80 °C—and applied for
shorter periods of time, so the final product will retain a quality
closer to the original than canned goods offer. NC Hyperbaric
has a prototype in development and is continuing to investigate
improvements to decrease the cost.
Heat is used not only to sterilize food, but also to sanitize
the equipment to process it. Engineers at the hygiene machin-
ery company Mimasa realized that the current requirements for
washing and sanitizing—subjecting equipment to water that has
been heated to 83 °C (181 °F) for three minutes—can take up
to an hour to achieve. They reasoned that bacteria start to die
off at lower temperatures, so the water could pass through these
temperatures as the heat rises.
So they worked with researchers at Catalonia-based IRTA to
deter mine the optimal temperature increase and the time needed
at each temperature to kill the required number of a given micro-
organism. The resulting machine saves time.
seeds Of CHAnGe
The greenhouse next to Conic System’s seed-planting company
in Barcelona is filled with the welcoming scent of new growth.
The building houses budding plants that the company sells to
hobby gardeners and growers. And the space also provides the
perfect test bed for innovations in Conic System’s seed-planting
and irrigation machinery.
After decades in agriculture, the Gusi family still could not
find a suitable machine to rapidly and effectively plant seeds
in trays for nurseries. So they built their own, and formed the
company Conic Systems. The machine—rapid, efficient, and
cost effective—has helped nurseries for food products and
forestry for more than 20 years.
But in the past two years, the company’s engineers have
incorporated dramatic improvements to the seed-sowing tech-
nology to create the first fully automatic seeding machine.
Seeds come in significantly different sizes, and so trays,
holes, and the machine’s settings must be changed to switch
from, for instance, onion seeds to the larger cucumber seeds.
Today all these changes and adjustments are done by hand, a
time-consuming process. Now Conic Systems engineers have
developed a new machine that employs advances in computer
technology to allow all changes to the settings to be made
using a touch screen.
This took significant in-house creativity. “T he commercial
computers available in the market, the ones that would be
able to do what we need, are very expensive,” says Jordi Gusi,
director of sales. “So we began to make our own hardware for
the kinds of things we need the machine to do: to change the
tray, the way the machine is moving, the height and width.”
The new system is about 20 percent faster than the previous
one, and reduces the frequency of errors.
To facilitate maintenance, the seeder machines can be con-
nected by the Internet to Conic System’s offices, so the com-
pany can diagnose any problem remotely —whether it’s in South
America or China or Australia—and provide detailed repair
information. The first prototypes have recently been completed:
one will be installed for a client in Barcelona, another in Israel.
Companies are automating food processing and
packaging machinery to speed processes and help
eliminate human error.
Photo Courtesy of metalquimia
6/2/2011 9:41:46 AM
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