Cheese producers could make energy savings of 50% in ripening rooms, according to a €1m EU research project, ‘Smart-Ripe.’
Stores for cheese ripening are usually ventilated, but switching ventilation off for periods of time could save producers energy without affecting the quality of the cheese, researchers claim.
Dr Imma Llop, project co-ordinator, told DairyReporter.com Smart-Ripe wants to show these findings, initially studied in a project ‘FP6 Truefood’, can work on an industrial scale.
Quality not affected
“Ripening rooms have ventilation which is always functioning,” she said. “This is to control relative humidity, carbon dioxide, and so on. Now we are trying to play with this and to have periods in which the ventilation is off.”
After cheese is made, the ripening process determines the flavour and texture of the product. Ventilation helps cheeses ripen evenly, but is very expensive for producers.
The FP6 Truefood project claims ventilation time can be reduced without affecting the microbiological, physicochemical and biochemical changes of Saint-Nectaire AOC cheese, and the final quality did not appear to be affected.
“This project [Smart-Ripe] comes from the FP6 Truefood project, which implemented a specific pattern of ventilation to save energy without a detrimental effect on cheese quality,” Llop said. “That first study was on a producer scale, now we want to implement this on an industrial scale.
“We also want to try reducing ventilation with other cheeses.”
Technology helps producers
The researchers hope the technology will improve the competitiveness of European cheese makers. As well as making energy savings, producers can view information on the ripening rooms from their PC, smart phone, or tablet.
A Smart-Ripe system can measure how much ventilation is necessary and allow cheese makers to control their ripening rooms with a ‘novel system’ using modern technology.
“There will have to be sensors in the system,” Llop said. “We have sensors for different parameters, integrating information, and we will be able to establish the pattern that is correct for each cheese.”
The project will also look at how to control cheese mass loss – the water which evaporates from cheese during ripening.
The two year research project is funded by the European Commission and joins the efforts of 11 partners from research centers, technological enterprises, and cheese manufacturers.
They are: INRA-GMPA (France); NAGREF- DEMETER (Greece); TEAGASC (Ireland); Constructions agro alimentaires et Pharmaceutiques (C2AP) (France); Bioval Process S.A.S. (France); Biosystems Engineering Ltd. (Ireland;) IRIS (Spain); Skarfi E.P.E. (Greece); Cooleeney Co. Ltd (Ireland) ; Société Fromagère du Livradois (France); and Coopérative Fromagère de Planèze (France).
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