The main objective of the LIFE MCUBO Project — currently in launch phase — is to contribute to the reduction of water and energy consumption in the food industry.
Focusing on excessive water consumption as the main environmental problem of the European food industry, the project is part of the European LIFE Programme for the Environment and Climate Change.
The data speaks for itself when it comes to this inefficient and excessive use of water: 1.8% of the total water used in the EU is used by the food industry. In Spain, the sector accounts for 11% of general industry consumption, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
LIFE MCUBO aims to reduce the environmental impact associated with water management in three food industry sub-sectors that use the most: meat, vegetable preserves and fruit derivatives. In addition to saving water, the project undertakes to reduce the consumption of electric and thermal energy associated with water in this type of companies.
The excessive and inefficient use of water is regarded as the key environmental problem in the food industry (Food, Drink, and Milk Best References 2006 study), one of the major water consumers in Europe.
To address this situation, the LIFE MCUBO project will deploy a comprehensive management system that includes remote monitoring technologies, detailed process modelling and streamlined integration into continuous improvement processes in each company.
The project was developed thanks to a consortium of four entities: the Advanced School of Engineers (TECNUN) of the University of Navarra, the Ceit IK4 (CEIT) Research Centre, the Navarra Industry Association (AIN) and the Centro Tecnológico Empresarial Alimentario (CTIC-CITA or Food Business Technology Centre). A company from each sector will also participate as project collaborator and validator of improvements developed.
TECNUN will be in charge of remotely and simultaneously monitoring water and energy consumption to determine overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
AIN will model production processes using the “Umberto NXT” software, and ceit-IK4 will model using ‘WEST’ software, in addition to studying wastewater.
The system will be optimised initially to later validate the improvements in CTIC-CITA pilot plants and later implement them in collaborating companies selected over the next two years, which will integrate water management in their continuous improvement processes.
The implementation of this system is expected to reduce water consumption and thermal and electrical energy usage.
Another expected result is the integration in companies’ continuous improvement and environmental management systems (ISO 14000 and EFQM) of a methodology which can be reproduced and replicated in other food industry sub-sectors.
This initiative aims to involve the food sector in the efficient management of resources through methodologies, models and wireless technology to simultaneously measure the productive and environmental efficiency of production processes.