Working in partnership, GEA and DTU have developed DRYCONTROL - a modelling tool in the form of a software program - that will enable GEA customers to "optimize returns" by producing milk powder with the precise water content desired.
Utilizing residue moisture data collected by infra-red radiation (NIR) sensors during the production process, DRYCONTROL uses a mathematical model to predict "what will happen going forward," said Lars Norbert Petersen, a DTU student whose PhD project was the foundation of the development.
Based on these predictions, DRYCONTROL can adjust the process environment - allowing the dryer to operate at a near optimal rate.
“What we have done is optimize the process using model-based controls,” DTU's Niels Kjølstad Poulsen told DairyReporter.com. “We can control how much material, how much air, and how much heat is added.”
“This way you produce a product that is dry, but not too dry but does not contain too much water."
Based on in-plant testing of the software, GEA is confident DRYCONTROL can consistently produce an increase in milk powder production of between 3% and 5%.
“We’ve done test work at a German dairy to see how well we could follow residual moisture, which indicated that we could increase production by between 3% and 5%," DRYCONTROL project manager at GEA, Christer Utzen, told this publication.
“We feel certain we do produce that consistently."
“It will become increasingly important to control production more efficiently, because if you can increase production by even 1% that’s a lot of money," he said.
EU milk quotas
DRYCONTROL recently hit the market after a soft launch by GEA, and has already been sold to dairies in Germany and Ireland. Looking ahead, GEA anticipates plenty more interest.
"There is market for this," said Utzen. "One of the reasons is the quota abolition next year."
Under the EU milk quota system, which was introduced in 1984 to control overproduction, each Member State has a national quota it distributes to farmers. Whenever a Member State exceeds this figure, it has to pay a penalty, called a super levy, to the EU.
The system is, however, due to be scrapped in April 2015.
“After that, countries in the EU can produce as much milk as they want. But we can’t drink all that extra milk," said Utzen. "We have to do something with it. One thing we can do is produce milk powder.”
“This will create a lot of business for us," he added.