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Modelling, Measurement and Improvement of the water management environmental impact in the food industry (LIFE MCUBO)
Start date: Sep 1, 2016, End date: Aug 31, 2019 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background One of the largest environmental impacts of the agro-food industry in Europe arises from excessive water consumption, in particular, for meat and drink production, and fruit and vegetable canning. The food industry consumes around 1.8% of all water consumption in the EU (‘Environmental Vision towards 2030’, Food Drink Europe). In Spain, the food sector accounts for 11% of all water consumed by industrial activities, according to the Spanish Ministry for Agriculture and Environment (2015). Excessive water consumption is due to several factors, including low usage of control and monitoring tools for industrial processes, the large diversity and complexity of such processes, and low uptake of water reuse and recycling technology. The relatively high cost of these technologies is a barrier to their implementation. In Spain, the food sector re-uses and recycles only 2.4% of the water it consumes (compared to 8.9% for manufacturing industries generally). There is a need for innovative concepts and technologies to achieve a more efficient use of water resources and to lower the overall environmental footprint of agro-food industries. Cost-effective solutions applicable to SMEs are particularly necessary. Objectives The objective of the LIFE MCUBO project is to minimise environmental impacts related to water use in the three food industry subsectors with highest water consumption (meat, juices and canned vegetables). This will be achieved through the demonstration at three industrial production plants of an integral management system based on: The implementation of a new low-cost, wireless monitoring technology (Plug&Lean system), using sensors to measure the companies´ production processes for at least one year; The development of detailed mathematical models for each of the three company´s processes, to provide information on water and energy consumption, and water quality, to help decision-makers streamline the processes; and Integration of water management into companies´ continuous improvement processes (ISO 14000 or EFQM standards) and environmental management systems, a methodology that will be replicable in other food industry subsectors. The project will boost the transferability potential of the system via a replication guide, based on the results from the companies in the three high-water use subsectors, and by the launch of a spin-off entity to commercially exploit the Plug&Lean technology. By reducing energy and water consumption in the food sector, the project directly contributes to the objective of the EU’s 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) of creating a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy. The EAP pays special attention to the more efficient use of water resources. Expected results: Water consumption reductions at the three demonstration companies of: o 30% for meat industry, o 26% for juices industry, and o 25% for canned vegetables industry; Electric energy consumption reductions at the three companies of: o 5% for meat industry, o 7% for juices industry, and o 5% for canned vegetables industry; Thermal energy consumption reductions at the three companies of: o 18% for meat industry, o 20% for juices industry, and o 15% for canned vegetables industry; Improved decision-making processes based on a new indicator relating to both energy and water consumption; Industrial processes modelling to enable European-scale replication at meat, juices and canned vegetables subsector companies, as well as other food and drink industry subsectors; and Contribution to the writing of the new edition of BREFs (best available techniques reference documents), by providing data on the relevant agricultural subsectors to the Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Seville.
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