As pressure on food processors to switch to sustainable packaging has grown, so a trend has emerged in the pouch industry to find viable alternatives to the layers of non-recyclable plastic used to safely store baby foods, purees, soups and other products. JBT has been supporting these efforts through innovative aseptic filling systems, which allow the safe filling of recyclable pouches without damaging their integrity by subjecting them to high temperatures.
“The pouch market is changing rapidly driven by the sustainability movement,” explains Patrick de Groot, JBT President for Liquid Foods in the EMENA region. “For aseptic this is a huge opportunity as these recyclable polypropylene (PP and PE) materials are sensitive to heat, therefore the hot fill and retort process requires thick and expensive multilayers. With aseptic technology, the process is mild with only a short sterilization cycle, followed by ambient processing and filling.”
Viable alternatives “We’ve had multiple types of packaging in the world for many years: rigid, flexible and carton,” continues de Groot. “Sustainability is gaining a lot of attention with all the big players these days, but it is not always a straightforward process to recycle these materials.”
Although pouches have been around for a number of years, their typical composition – multiple layers with aluminum, PET on the outside and a further PE layer on the inside to protect the product – meant recycling was not a realistic option.
With awareness of sustainability continuing to grow and companies across the food industry investing in more sustainable packaging, so the pouch sector has also tried to find viable alternatives. However, de Groot explains that the problem up until now is that fully recyclable PP or PE material is unable to withstand the high temperatures used for hot filling, which has traditionally been the norm in the industry.
Aseptic filling Here is where JBT enters the story. JBT’s innovative AsepFlex Linear Pouch Filler system is now providing customers with the means of switching to fully PP or PE pouches without suffering the detrimental effects of hot filling on the material.
“A PP or PE pouch is not as rigid as one with aluminium or Oriented Polypropylene (OPP), and therefore is not able to withstand high temperatures used to fill most pouches on the market,” says de Groot. “With aseptic technology, you don’t need to do a hot fill or go through a retort, you can sterilize the pouch without having to expose it to high temperatures, therefore aseptic technology is attracting lots of interest as it also brings the ability to process high quality natural low acid products.
“Aseptic technology is an add-on not only from a product quality perspective, but the technology also allows you to treat fully-recyclable PP or PE pouches with thin layers.”
Carlos Fernandez, JBT Executive Vice President and President, Liquid Foods, outlines why he believes that in spite of some significant challenges and undoubted changes to the ways we live and work, there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the future of the global food industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact across most industries worldwide, and the food sector has not been immune to its consequences. In particular, for foodservice operators – and the restaurants, cafes and bars they supply – the spread of the Coronavirus has been quite challenging. Despite this – and although it is clear there will be important changes to the ways we live and work – I believe there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of the food industry. While impossible to say that it is 100% recession-proof, it is a critical, essential industry for everyone. But at the same time, the industry will change and evolve.
In the short-to-medium term, the pandemic will bring about significant changes to the food processing industry, the supply chain and consumption. On the consumer side, I think the trend towards cooking and eating at home will stay with us for the foreseeable future, along with consumer trends toward healthy food options. Health and nutrition will continue to grow in importance and will influence the decisions consumers make in choosing food and beverage products. On the retail front I also expect to see changes in packaging formats from larger bulk sizes to smaller packs.
“The trend towards cooking at home will continue for the foreseeable future”
Across the food supply chain, we are likely to see significant changes to the IT, sanitation, and automation infrastructures with the goal of creating greater efficiencies and improvements in hygiene and food safety. Uncertainty over short- and long-term sustainability issues is likely to lead to more replacement investment, and we at JBT believe this will take on the form of additional capital spend on new factories. Achieving efficiency is not just a question of generating more savings, it also has to do with finding the right balance of people and skills. If this was difficult before, it will become even more of a challenge as the levels of contagion in many food processing facilities are potentially very high.
And, of course, food safety will be of fundamental importance. There will be an even greater focus on traceability, while cleaning systems and hygiene will be critical. At JBT, we are focusing on all three areas with dedicated laboratories and scientists, as well as continuous testing verified by the FDA.
JBT Proseal offers sustainable packaging options
To reduce the amount of human contact with food products there are going to be a lot more individual packages and a large-scale shift from bulk packaging to grab-and-go. JBT is well positioned to participate in this trend with automated solutionsfrom our Proseal branded tray sealing technology. Proseal is a leader and an innovator in environmentally friendly packaging systems manufacturing in Europe, the US and Australia.
“There will be an even greater focus on traceability. Cleaning systems will be critical.”
Other important trends can be seen when we look at product categories such as shelf-stable foods and orange juice. Both have experienced a widespread revival and I believe this is a trend which is here to stay. Shelf stable foods provide safe, processed products that can be stored at home for extended periods of time, while orange juice is benefiting from increased consumer awareness of its nutritional and health benefits. Orange juice, of course, also contains high levels of vitamin C, and consumers are becoming more aware of the fact that instead of taking a vitamin supplement, they can receive the same benefits through a natural product.
Sustainability Related to all the above is the topic of sustainability. I believe we are going to see further movement towards improving energy-efficient technologies and decreasing water consumption in food processing, supporting more sustainable packaging alternatives, as well as developing more sustainable detergent and cleaning solutions for end-products and equipment.
At JBT we find ourselves at the center of this area in terms of equipment, solutions, and systems that support food processors’ ambitious environmental goals. Throughout the pandemic JBT’s product development and production facilities have continued to work continuously, with a particular focus on remote service and local assistance. This has included the launch of solutions such as our PRoSIGHT™ Augmented Remote Assistance platform which makes use of smart glasses and mobile devices to enable expert JBT technicians to inspect machinery and equipment from afar.
“At JBT, we find ourselves at the centre of sustainable alternatives in terms of solutions that support ambitious environmental goals.”
This is critical during pandemic-driven travel restrictions, but instrumental in driving greater travel-related emission reductions in the future. Remote support and operational efficiency are also the focus of JBT’s own Internet of Things solution, the iOPS® Gateway, and we expect to see a lot more demand for the iOPS solution and in the whole area of improving connectivity with customers moving forward.
Additionally, plant-based drinks and foods will continue to increase in market share, thanks to their perceived health and sustainability benefits, and JBT participates broadly with customers on meeting this growing consumer demand. There will also be more, smaller processing and packaging facilities focused on maximizing flexibility, lowering throughput and distributing local products within a particular region.
In summary, though our world has been rocked by the pandemic, people still need to eat! I still feel strongly that the food industry in general, and JBT, are well positioned to withstand the challenges we are faced with and will continue to weather the storm.”
JBT’s tray sealing machinery specialist Proseal America was one of the key companies involved in an innovative project in North America to move berry packaging from clamshells to film-sealed thermoforms; a move which forms part of an industry-wide North American berry producer strategy to use 100% recycle-ready packaging by 2025.
Since 2014, Proseal, along with other industry partners, has been assisting Salinas, CA-based Naturipe Farms to replace plastic clamshell packaging with heat-film-sealed thermoforms, in the process reducing per-pack plastic by 33%, reports Plastics Today.
According to the report, Naturipe Farms is now using the heat-seal technology for both fresh and value-added products, including snacking lines Bliss Bentos and Boost Bentos. However, Naturipe Farms’ VP of Marketing, CarrieAnn Arias, told the publication that the biggest benefit was for sustainability, with the change helping the company remove 24 metric tons of plastic from the waste stream in 2019, thanks to its Heat Seal Program.
Berry packing using a JBT Proseal tray sealer
According to Tony Burgess, Proseal’s Head of Sales & Control Systems, “moving to a top sealed product allows growth into shelf life extension methods with the use of modified atmosphere top seal film, thereby future proofing the change.”
Valuable support Janis McIntosh, director of marketing innovation and sustainability at Naturipe Farms, said the program was part of an overall strategy by the company and its associated growers to reduce its environmental footprint in all areas of the business particularly in packaging reduction and recyclability.
The project originated through Costco Canada in 2013 who wanted to replicate the success of White Heat Sealing in the UK and the expansion of theroform packaging across Europe, but had to accommodate both larger North American pack sizes and the need to find the right heat sealing equipment supplier.
Proseal’s top-sealed packs using modified atmosphere film are already commonplace in the UK
“Without the support from tray-sealing machinery supplier Proseal America, Accolade, MasterPack Spa, Infia, and Penninsula Pack (acquired by Sonoco in 2017), we would never have gotten off the ground in 2014,” said McIntosh.
“Also, we cannot thank the Costco staff enough for their support and patience through the development. Today there are many more packaging choices for companies wanting to get into heat sealing, better film structures, and improved access to thermoforms are helping move the technology forward. It’s tough being the first to develop a product, but heat seal has been a great direction for us and the industry in terms of sustainability.”
JBT is set to participate in free, Spanish-language webinar on Juice Production & Sustainability to be held on September 15 at 10:30 AM CET, with the focus on how to achieve greater sustainability in citrus juice processing, including reducing the consumption of water and energy.
As part of the webinar, ‘Sustainability: A commitment from the Juice Industry’, JBT’s EMENA Sales Manager for Citrus and Juice Processing Technologies, Francisco Purroy, and Technology Assistance Manager, José Lorente, will be delivering a presentation on JBT’s role in improving sustainability in citrus juice production.
The recovery of valuable essential oils will feature in the online seminar
Organized by Spanish juice producers’ association Azozumos, the one-day event aims to develop and promote sustainability within the juice sector as part of an overall strategy to improve social, economic and environmental practices within the industry. Such strategies include potentially-lucrative options for monetizing rather than throwing away post-production residues, including the recovery of valuable essential oils.
“This virtual meeting presents us with an opportunity to continue building together and contributing to sustainability through our joint commitment and the promotion of different actions, many of which are already in motion and have become success stories,” says Purroy.
JBT será entre los ponentes en un Seminario Online en español enfocado en técnicas y estrategias para mejorar la sostenibilidad en el sector de zumo, que tendrá lugar a través de Go to Meeting el martes 15 de septiembre a las 10.30 horas CET.
Como parte del seminario, ‘Sostenibilidad: Un compromiso del sector del zumo’, Francisco Purroy, el responsable de ventas y cuentas (Europa, el Medio Oriente y el Norte de Africa) para cítricos y tecnologías para procesado de zumos de JBT, y José Lorente, el encargado de asistencia en tecnologías de JBT, presentarán una charla sobre el papel de JBT en la mejora de la sostenibilidad en la producción de zumos.
Organizado por la asociación española de productores de cítricos, Asozumos, el evento tiene el objetivo de desarrollar y promover la sostenibilidad adentro del sector de zumos como parte de una estrategia para mejorar sus prácticas sociales, económicas y ambientales.
Dichas estrategias incluyen opciones atractivas para monetizar en lugar de desechar los residuos post producción, como la recuperación de aceites esenciales, d-limoneno, pulpas, azúcares, y fibras de alto valor.
“Este encuentro virtual supone una oportunidad para seguir construyendo juntos y continuar la contribución del sector, a través de la puesta en común y promoción de distintas acciones que ya se llevan a cabo y que se han convertido en casos de éxito,” concluyó Purroy.
For the global juice industry as it operates amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of ensuring stringent food safety – combined with sustainability – has surely never been more important. But given the economic challenges many companies face, the ability to become more efficient during processing and keep waste to a minimum is arguably just as crucial.
JBT’s approach to both food safety and sustainability is encapsulated in six key Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) principles for juice processors: aiming for food security and nutrition; ensuring economic viability; encouraging good governance; being environmentally responsible; creating acceptable working conditions; and promoting the transfer of knowledge.
“One of the six principles of sustainability is food safety: thatfoods are not just sustainable, but that they have to be safer,” explains JBT’s Technology Assistance Manager for Liquid Foods, José Lorente. “If you don’t clean properly, you can’t be sure of eliminating micro-organisms, and if the sterilization process is not adequate, this can result in serious problems.”
Improved profitability While food safety is undoubtedly important, another significant element of achieving sustainability is maximizing yield. Getting more out of the same volume of fruit – including valuable by-products or ingredients – means far less wastage and potential contamination, and improved profitability at the end of the process; a massively important consideration given the current economic pressures driven by the global pandemic.
“Recovering by-products, such as citrus essential oils, generated during citrus juice processing, enables companies not only to be more environmentally friendly, but also more profitable by being more efficient during the extraction process using the same raw materials,” explains Lorente.
“Over recent years, we at JBT have been working on maximizing and optimizing yield by developing solutions that help customers obtain more juice and by-products. Being efficient is part of sustainability. The more efficient a company, the more sustainable it becomes and the more profitable.”
Significant benefits A clear example of how JBT solutions can help juice customers maximize yield is when it comes to essential oils, which can be recovered during the extraction process. These include valuable d-Limonene, a natural organic solvent used as an ingredient across a wide variety of applications, from cleaning products to the aroma industry. However, what makes JBT solutions different from standard extractors is their ability to recover significantly more essential oil.
“With a standard extractor, you can recover around 55% of the essential oil present in the fruit, but thanks to the efficiency of JBT’s ORES (Oil Recovery Extraction System), customers can recover up to 65%,” says Lorente. “You have to bear in mind that otherwise this 10%, which is a contaminant, would be thrown away. By recovering that extra 10%, customers not only earn more money, they also help protect the environment.”
To achieve even better results, JBT has developed the MORE (Modular Oil Recovery Extractor) system, which recovers essential oil before it reaches the extractor. By softly scraping the peel, without damaging the integrity of the fruit, more than 90% of the essential oil available can be recovered.
With awareness of the importance of sustainability growing worldwide – among processors and consumers alike – so demand has increased for solutions that offer enhanced shelf-life and make use of non-plastic alternatives, writesTony Burgess, Head of Sales & Control Systems at one of the newest additions to the JBT family, tray sealing solutions specialist, Proseal.
In competitive markets handling highly perishable foods, maximizing both shelf-life and throughput is vital, so at Proseal we are seeing a strong interest in our high-speed tray sealers that can be trusted to deliver efficient sealing and Gas Flush (MAP) processing and keep up with the required speeds of production.
To deliver this, cycle speed is naturally key, but another important requirement of today’s packaging line is the ability to follow motion and use intelligent buffering capabilities that enable trays to feed continuously into a tray sealer without having to pre-sort and adjust pack spacing. This valuable time saving technology is demonstrated by Proseal’s ProMotion™.
Alternative Materials More recently the plastic narrative in the consumer media has led to many companies and retailers seeking alternative materials, or light weighting their existing plastic trays. Over the past 20 years at Proseal, we have been working closely with film suppliers in order to devise viable solutions that are able to meet the sealing needs of trays made from both plastic and cardboard, without causing a need for costly modifications to machinery by our customers.
This includes Halopack®, a gas-tight cardboard tray suited to skin packaging, which offers an 80% reduction in plastic from some traditional plastic trays and is made up from 90% recycled cardboard. And another recent innovation, the plastic ‘snap-pack’ style tray, which seals the portioned product into two separate cavities in the same tray, allowing the consumer to ‘snap’ off and open one half of the pack and dispose of it, whilst the other half remains hermetically-sealed in its gas-flushed environment – allowing the customer to fully benefit from the maximum shelf-life of the product whilst reducing food waste.
Automated Control Systems The need for intelligent technology is also evolving in processing lines and such intelligent technology is demonstrated in all Proseal tray-sealers through its many features and benefits. Proseal’s market-leading control systems can see our machinery act as ‘the spine of the packaging line’, integrating all the line machinery components to be driven through the Proseal touch screen.
This ensures that in the event of a problem, the Proseal machine is able to flag an error in a peripheral piece of machinery and pass a stop signal to the feeding equipment, enabling the line to come to a controlled stop in order to avoid overfeeding the tray sealer and prevent unnecessary product or packaging waste.
JBT has committed to continuing to support customers worldwide in improving sustainability through an increase in yields, a reduction in unnecessary wastage and greater control of energy usage, which the company strongly believes will mutually benefit all areas of the industry.
From systems that recover valuable essential oils from citrus peel to solutions that get the maximum possible yield out of fresh-cut salad and vegetable processing, JBT has long been a prominent proponent of sustainability in the international food and beverage business. However, amid concerns over the environment and the tightening of budgets due to the Covid-19 crisis, JBT has given a fresh commitment to further boosting sustainability practices, both internally and externally.
Internally, according to JBT Liquid Foods President and EVP, Carlos Fernandez, JBT has made significant strides building on an already strong record for sustainability, from altering daily working practices within the company to major infrastructure projects at manufacturing sites. “At JBT, we have undertaken a number of important sustainability initiatives over the past 12 months, beginning with a profound analysis of the company – looking at where we are and how we can improve – and including a much improved information campaign both internally and externally,” he says.
“We are carrying out sustainable initiatives at an internal level, from changes to daily working practices, such as minimizing the amount of paper used, to larger-scale projects including the installation of solar panels at several of our manufacturing facilities.”
Externally, Fernandez says JBT is continuing to assist customers in improving sustainability by helping reduce energy consumption through solutions like the Heat Recovery System (HRS)for Continuous Rotary Sterilizers for canned foods, which has been developed to maximize heat recovery during the sterilization process.
However, this is the mere tip of the iceberg. Proseal, a specialist in technology solutions for the packaging industry which became part of JBT in 2019, offers a number of innovative systems which can reduce the use of plastic. Proseal has been a major driving force in solutions that significantly reduce plastic in packaging, replacing clamshells with micro-perforated film, which helps products such as berries and mushrooms ‘breathe’ at a controlled rate, extending shelf-life at many points in the value chain including for the consumer. Meanwhile, JBT solutions such as READYGo CIP and CITROSAN help producers and processors cut bills by reducing the amount of water and chemicals needed by making caustic and rinse water safe for reuse.
JBT’s many alliances have also played a major role in boosting sustainability. Laser Food‘s laser-labelling technology for fruit and vegetables can all but eliminate the need for traditional labels, while Aurratech – originator of the Fog In Place disinfection system – typically helps companies save between 80-90% of water and 80-90% of chemicals in the fumigation of facilities. IceGen similarly can help achieve a 70% reduction in freezing time for orange juice enabling considerable energy savings, while JBT’s newest ally – SmartWash Solutions – is assisting companies in the fresh-cut produce sector in improving throughput by 30%.
Fernandez adds: “These alliances, acquisitions and solutions are part of a larger JBT strategy, making sure JBT is at the forefront of the trends driving growth in the food industry. Sustainability is not only part of JBT’s philosophy, it is something positive for the world and indispensable for the industry as a whole. What we do is reduce waste, increase the recovery of products or by-products and achieve a more efficient industry. We want to achieve this hand-in-hand with our customers.
“We are not doing this because it is a fashionable or trendy topic, we are doing this because it is essential for the health of the food industry. JBT’s technologies are key to this focus, providing solutions to maximize yield, minimize wastage and preserve food in all its forms to increase shelf-life.”
Pancho Purroy, JBT’s EMENA Sales & Account Manager for Citrus & Juice Processing Technologies and Sales Manager for Liquid Foods Iberia, examines how sustainability has been at the core of JBT’s food preservation innovations since the very beginning.
For over 100 years JBT has been a major innovator in food preservation technology. The corporation has always believed food safety and shelf life solutions would have an ever-growing importance in the food & beverage supply chains across the world. As a consequence, JBT heavily invested across its history in adopting the broadest range of preservation technologies and continues to do so.
Reducing food losses and food waste at both the manufacturing and the consumer levels, will result in a more secure global food system. It is important for food manufacturers not to have production losses and returns; and consumers want to improve the overall utilization of food. Waste reduction strategies and preservation methods can now be widely used, and these are needed more than ever before.
Needless waste Recent FAO Food Balance statistics show supply chain losses for food groups such as meat, fruit and vegetables to be around 5% of production of domestic supply quantities (Martindale, 2017). While these food losses remain incredibly important it is reported by national agencies and government departments that consumers’ food waste regularly reaches 20% or more of food purchased (Defra, 2017).
JBT believes it is essential to continue innovating and deploying food & beverage preservation solutions as it is proved that frozen foods, ambient shelf-stable foods, and extended shelf-life refrigerated foods all show a reduction in waste and, consequently, a positive contribution to the sustainability of our food supply systems.
The preservation of foods and types of food preservation methods available can facilitate this because they reduce food degradation and improve the utilization of food in the manufacturing and domestic environments. Also, they will contribute towards sustainability given the factual data that production of food waste increases greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint of food consumption (Garnett, 2013; O’Rourke, 2014). It is crucial to consider food waste reduction as an outcome of using preserved foods because research carried out previously demonstrates it can help us to define the sustainability of meals (Martindale, 2017).
Preservation importance Frozen preservation, pasteurization and sterilization methods can provide greater utilization of food by consumers and reduce household food waste. An increasing amount of research studies have identified the importance of preservation methods in reducing consumer food waste and that there are several factors that must work together if food waste reduction is to be successful. For example, research carried out in the UK market comparing fresh and frozen food use in households found that the amount of consumer food waste was dependent on the food preservation method. The study showed a 47% reduction in household food waste for frozen products compared to fresh products (Martindale, 2014).
Not only we must consider the value of food preservation in households but we must also study whether manufacturing facilities are achieving an efficient use of resources and continual availability (Tukker, 2015). JBT continues to develop food preservation models that identify control points in the supply chain that can maximize food waste reduction, and jointly with its global and regional customers, investigates these wider impacts on food resource usage.
As another example, food & beverage preservation techniques improve the availability of out-of-season produce which can be included in produce sustainability assessments (Foster et al., 2014). Indeed, this was why fruit and vegetable preservation of using traditional pickling and osmotic methods originally emerged (Martindale, 2017).
High Pressure Processing (HPP) technology from JBT Avure can improve product shelf-life
Secure supply The benefits of food preservation are important, and a secure food supply chain is important in the sustainability arena if it can provide what consumers demand with increased resilience. Preserved foods have played a pivotal role in enabling the global food supply chain to evolve and, without that, food losses would be increased in agriculture and processing.
Many of the food supply chain issues highlighted in current food loss and food waste research do not exist with preserved foods because these techniques lead to the extended shelf life gains that many waste reduction initiatives seek (Parfitt et al., 2010). Furthermore, freezing, pasteurization and sterilization meet the conditions of “clean label” trends and often provide greater portion control in the home (Shove and Southerton, 2000). The “clean label” trend is now clearly identified in retail environments where there are demands for ingredient labeling that provides greater clarity and communicates any potential allergens introduced in processing and manufacturing (Asioli et al., 2017).
Finally, market research also leads us to consider the broader issue of what incentivizes consumers to eat a more sustainable diet. There is over 23.4M MT of food waste produced by households across European Community member nations (Bräutigam et al., 2014; Stenmarck et al., 2016). A sustainable diet must eliminate this food waste. Ambient shelf-stable, extended refrigerated shelf life, and frozen food & beverage purchases decrease food waste significantly and this has important implications for providing sustainable meals and diets to the growing global population.
JBT Sustainability in Action
Introduced the Cooker Cooler. Still today, one of the most efficient solutions to sterilize canned foods.
Introduced the first in-line juice extractor. Still today, the highest yield, lowest waste citrus extractor in the market
Introduced the first FLoFREEZE Freezer. Still today, the benchmark in efficient, sustainable IQF freezing.
Introduced the TASTE evaporator, the most efficient, lowest energy consumption juice concentrate solution in the World
Over 1000 UHT Lines installed globally.
75% of all Citrus Extractors globally.
50% of all retort/canned foods globally.
Over 100 continuous Sterilizers running.
Largest Range of food preservation/shelf life extension/pathogen kill solutions: thermal & nonthermal, broadest spectrum.
iOPS IoT Platform: troubleshooting and operational processes improvements, line efficiencies.
Retorts: Heat Recovery System; LESS; Energy Recovery System;
Reduce Water & Chemicals: SmartWash; Chemtrol; Freshgard water recycle; Aurratech FIP.
Reduce Energy Usage: ReGen systems for pasteurization & cooling; Hi2 Flex; Smart Dryer; RPS; ERS; IceGen
JBT’s Sint Niklaas, Belgium facility is close to completing of one of the company’s most ambitious sustainability projects, with the installation of over 1,000 solar panels that will – once in operation – account for 25% of the 260,000 sq ft center’s total energy usage. The culmination of months of careful planning, the project is part of a large scale move to bring Sint Niklaas, and other, older JBT facilities, in line with JBT’s overall Sustainability strategy for 2020.
JBT’s internal Energy Action Plan falls within the Sustainability strategy and includes substantial work undertaken to reduce heating, fuel and electricity usage at locations such as Sint Niklaas. As part of the plan, older roofing at the site is also being replaced and improved insulation added; an effort which has so far helped bring down Sint Niklaas’ heating costs by approximately $150,000 per year.
Solar panels at JBT Sint Niklaas, Belgium
“At Sint Niklaas, we are in a very big, but old facility, so over recent years we have been renovating the shell and the roofing, and this has given us the opportunity to also install solar panels,” explains HSE and Facility Manager Jan Vangansbeke. “Here in Sint Niklaas, we are located in a residential area and in that context, we want to carefully consider the surrounding environment and our Corporate Social Responsibility.”
Putting in place a total of 1,048 solar panels, capable of generating a total of 330 KWp or around a quarter of the facility’s total energy consumption per year, involved close communication between all partners from the beginning which ultimately helped deliver extremely good results, according to Vangansbeke.
View of JBT Sint Niklaas’ recently-installed solar panels
However, the project was not without its challenges. “We have insulated, steel deck roofs with connecting flexi-panels in between to allow for more natural light, but these posed a danger during installation,” he explains. “What we did was to put in place galvanized mesh wire – as they use in concrete – which was fixed to the roof so the solar panels could be installed and maintained safely.”
Looking ahead, Vangansbeke says JBT will continue to work on the building shell in Sint Niklaas with the remaining, older roofing gradually replaced as part of the overall drive to achieve more sustainable heating and electricity usage at the site. Other future initiatives include the installation of charging stations for electrical vehicles.