Waterloo’s ground breaking cold air distribution research could deliver major benefits for the food supply chain

Waterloo Air Products plc is working in close collaboration with Bakkavor Group, Brunel University London and the College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences to overcome energy wastage and minimise carbon emissions by developing a solution that improves the efficiency of cold air distribution in chilled food factories.

Energy is an important input in all stages of the food chain. The majority of chilled food factories in the UK typically comprise large spaces which are cooled 4°C-8°C to satisfy food safety and quality requirements. As factories are designed for flexibility and optimal process layouts, unoccupied space is chilled, resulting in energy wastage.

By pooling resources, the consortium of companies are looking to deliver cooling exactly where it is needed which could revolutionise the food chain’s infrastructure by enabling the cold chain to improve shelf life, and reduce waste in the supply chain with significant reductions in CO2 emissions.

“Little research has been undertaken to understand the movement of air in chilled food environments and the impact on food safety and shelf life. The current dynamics of buildings and the layout of their production lines results in energy being wasted in chilled areas that are not used,” explains Wander ter Kuile, Engineering Manager at Waterloo.

“We hope to develop a solution that could have a major impact for the supply chain that, in addition to offering reductions in energy, will minimise waste in the food chains.”

The project is being led by Bakkavor, the UK’s leading manufacturer of fresh prepared foods; the scientific input is being provided by Professor Savvas Tassou and his team at Brunel’s College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences, with Waterloo providing a route to market.

“Energy is an important input in all stages of the food chain. The industry has made reductions in energy consumption and emissions. But to make further progress, significant innovations will have to be made. By working closely with Bakkavor and Waterloo we hope to develop an innovative approach to cooling that will have a significant impact across the food chain and deliver substantial savings in energy and costs,” comments Professor Tassou.

As experts, with over 50 years’ experience in chilled air systems and air distribution Waterloo is carrying out extensive research to understand the air movement and temperatures involved with a view to developing more localised cooling in the areas specifically involved in processing activities, without the wholesale replacement of existing refrigeration equipment.

Extensive research and testing will be carried out in Bakkavor’s chilled food manufacturing rooms and a processing room will also be replicated in an environmental chamber at Brunel to enable experiments at controlled and much wider conditions to be carried out.

A modelling tool based on Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) will be developed to simulate airflow management approaches. Once the most appropriate solution has been identified, Waterloo will develop, manufacture and implement the system in a pilot site provided by Bakkavor.

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waterloo collaborates on ground breaking air distribution project
 

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