JBT has begun collaborating with Aquaporin, a Danish clean-tech specialist that has developed an innovative system for achieving more sustainable water usage in food and beverage processing, while at the same time reducing energy consumption and boosting product flavor.
The food industry is one of the world’s biggest water consumers. As of 2015, food production accounted for around 30% of total global energy consumption, as well as a large proportion of overall water consumption, according to the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO). As such, the industry has a huge potential to become more sustainable by reusing and cleaning water.
This is one of the goals behind the Joint Development Agreement that Aquaporin recently signed with JBT.
The company – together with JBT – is looking to develop new applications for food and beverage processing using Aquaporin’s novel forward osmosis membrane; an innovation that departs significantly from reverse osmosis, the traditional means of desalinating water.
Unlike the traditional system, forward osmosis – featuring biomimetic membranes – uses the osmotic pressure difference between a feed water stream and a draw solution as a driving force, making it highly energy efficient, explains Sylvie Braekevelt, Project Manager for Applications at Aquaporin.
As well as significantly reducing energy consumption, Braekevelt says forward osmosis can help achieve higher food quality during dry food production by luring water out naturally rather than forcing it out; until now the typical system used by processors.
“Liquid foods is a very promising application for us because we believe very strongly that the technology can make a difference to the taste and the quality of the product,” she says. “Most taste compounds are volatile and easily evaporated – as soon as you start running at high temperatures to get water out, the compounds that escape from the liquid foods first are the ones that are more volatile than water, which are the aromatic compounds. Forward osmosis, which uses low temperature water flows, makes sure the aromatic compounds are kept in the foods.”
Braekevelt adds that the system is currently going through pilot testing to determine which food and beverages would be best suited to forward osmosis.