Canada’s Technology for Food (CTFF)
High Tech + Food Processing = Improved Productivity + Lower Costs
In June 2013 the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, Ontario, renowned for its cultivation and commercialization of advanced electronic and software technologies, announced a partnership with the City of Waterloo to launch a new program targeted at the Ontario and Canadian food and beverage processing sectors. The program, Canada’s Technology for Food (CTFF), has received $200,000 in seed funding from the City of Waterloo. Ted McKechnie, former president of the Canada based multinational, Maple Leaf Foods, is CTFF’s first chair and will head up the effort.
One focus of CTFF’s activities will centre on the application of information and communication technology (ICT) to food processing operations. The program brings together North America’s third largest food processing cluster consisting of the Greater Toronto Area and the Highway 401 corridor west to Waterloo with state of the art capabilities from Ontario’s universities, colleges and the private sector.
CTFF’s goal is to facilitate collaborations between food industry manufacturers who have real opportunities and challenges and providers of knowledge, technical skills and commercialization expertise in ICT. A consortium of solution providers will be matched to a manufacturer to build an answer to their challenge. When the technology solution has application beyond the first client the Accelerator Centre will be engaged to commercialize the technology and grow the business. Eventually, the objective will be to reach world markets with new technologies.
There are, of course, many examples of ICT expertise in Canada being applied to manufacturing. The National Research Council (NRC) considers the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industries as the backbone of the global digital economy and a key driver of productivity growth in a knowledge based economy (http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/rd/ict/index.html). However, there is no focus on food processing – Ontario’s second largest manufacturing sector.
NRC offers the Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program (DTAPP). This is a $76.5 million program to encourage adoption of ICT by small and medium enterprises in Canada. DTAPP is delivered by the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and its Industrial Technology Advisors. The main focus of the 400 projects delivered to date seems to be Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). While incredibly valuable, CTFF plans to go well beyond ERP.
An example of where CTFF plans to go is offered by NIZO Food Research in the Netherlands (http://www.nizo.com). NIZO is an independent contract research lab who won the 2013 IFT Innovation Award. The organization has developed a proprietary simulation model for evaporators called NIZO PREMIA. Using this mathematical modelling and simulation technology they worked successfully with a large commercial dairy and have reduced the energy costs of drying whey by 60%.
Another example is the European Commission who in 2008 funded a 5 year project with 16 partners called “Computer-Aided Food Processes for Control Engineering (Food Processing). CAFÉ, (http://www.cafe-project.org) as the project is known combines process analytical technology and sensing devices with mathematical models and simulation capability. Four processes have been studied: wine making (bioconversion), microfiltration of beverages (separation), freeze-drying of lactic bacteria (preservation) and ice cream crystallization (structuring).
These last two examples offer an exciting insight into the future which CTFF plans to bring to Ontario’s food processing industry.