Innovative Food Technologies for Re-distributed Manufacturing
The final report of the Food Technology feasibility study is available.
Synopsis of the report
This report aims to provide an overview of food technologies that could support the wider adoption and application of Re-Distributed Manufacturing (RDM) in the food sector, and has been developed as part of a series of feasibility studies under the umbrella of the ‘Food, Energy and Water Local Nexus Network’ (LNN) for RDM. The technologies include both traditional food processing technologies that could be reconfigured to be used in smaller scale and also a number of new emerging food technologies that currently may have limited commercial applications, but could provide significant potential in the context of RDM. These technologies are assessed against fourteen specifically defined criteria in order to identify their benefits and drawbacks for future applications of RDM.
One of the main findings of this study has been that RDM, as an innovative production structure, necessitates further research, innovation and development (RID) in order to enable successful applications by food businesses. These RID activities could be categorised under three areas of process level, product level and system level innovations. In this context, a number of key research questions regarding future development of food technologies for small scale production systems are presented:
- Are existing food preparation and preservation technologies scalable and functional for future RDM food systems?
- What other enabling technologies (e.g. intelligent control systems) influence food technologies for RDM food systems?
- Could novel food technologies be made productive and resource efficient for distributed manufacturing?
- Can novel distributed food technologies produce products with consistent quality?
- What process flexibilities are required to produce customised and personalised food products?
- What process flexibilities are required to deal with volatility in local market demands?
- How can we control the security and traceability of food products using novel food technologies?
- Can novel food processing technologies become commercially viable in distributed systems?
- Will additive manufacturing be a viable food production process for RDM to supply localised regions?
- What process features are required to make distrusted food products socially and societally acceptable (small factories in the middle of an urban area)?
Based on these, the report also presents a number of specific research challenges that need to be addressed in order to develop a viable and sustainable approach to the production of food products on smaller scales (redistributed) and closer to the source of consumption (localised), whilst preserving the safety and maintaining the quality of manufactured food.
Finally, one of the main conclusions of this study is that increasing productivity, improving resilience and reducing waste are important considerations upon which the future of the UK food sector must be founded, and distributed manufacturing of our food products will play a vital role in the achievement of these goals.