Food industry 4.0 – Novel and efficient food processing

New approaches for sourcing, processing and manufacturing systems for foods and food ingredients are constantly on the rise. Several sectorspecific technologies are emerging; common goals across this innovation area include reducing environmental impact and increasing nutritional quality while maintaining food safety, and the enjoyable experience of consuming food.


Novel and efficient food processing includes all steps from cutting and separation of agro and aqua resources, stabilisation of new food structures and products, meal assembly and home cooking. In all stages, new innovations have been taking place, from cutting technologies (water-beam, laser, ultrasound), fractionation, separation and extraction (dry bio-refineries, membranes, adsorption technologies, electrostatic separation, hypercritical CO2), to structuring (emulgation utilising membranes, microfluidisation, ultrasound), and heating (super-heated steam, microwaves, induction, sous-vide, radio-frequency). Also, non-thermal and mild preservation (electromagnetic energy and pulsed electric fields, high pressure treatment, reverse osmosis, cold plasma), filling (aseptic filling, clean room tech, super cooling), and packaging (see packaging breakthrough).
For illustration, non-thermal and mild preservation technologies, like high pressure treatment, are under development to maintain the fresh-like quality of pasteurised and sterilised food, while also reducing energy input during processing. Dry biorefineries have a potential to separate and valorise the different fractions of resources in the agricultural production environment.
The processing innovations have also been fuelled by new developments in digitalisation, robotisation and 3D-printing (personalisation, mass production, DIY). Plus, nanotechnologies (new formulations, new applications, novel packaging, novel foods, policies applied), system thinking (low input technologies, feedback and feedforward controls, novel sensing methods, etc). In addition, new ways of producing resources (eg via organic production, agro-ecological principles, urban or coastal farming and so on), consumption practices (eg consumer attitudes towards products and technologies, participatory actions, new food preparation schemes, food cultural heritage, etc).

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