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Few people realise that around 30% of the world’s energy is consumed by agri-food systems

Sustainability organicMoisture control is vital to maintaining the quality and consistency of the product throughout the process. (Image source: Hydronix)

Energy is also responsible for a third of agri-food systems’ greenhouse gas emissions. Given this, it is little wonder that sustainable production is a major concern of the industry. 

One of the major consumers of energy in agri-food processes is the heat needed to control moisture in raw materials and semi processed food stuffs. Moisture control is vital to maintaining the quality and consistency of the product throughout the process. Examples include drying for storage, milling, pelleting and packaging. 

Online measurement offers best accuracy 

Unlike spot sampling-based methods, which are both time consuming and prone to errors, online, real time moisture measurement allows the control system to automatically react to variations in moisture content. This allows it to adjust the process to continuously achieve a precise moisture level in the material, perfect for storage, further processing, or final packaging. 

Obtaining accurate moisture levels is important to prevent under-drying and over-drying. Under-drying can lead to the growth of mycotoxins and also reduce the storage life of the material, as well as possibly damaging the material. Over-drying leads to excessive use of energy, thereby reducing the sustainable credentials of the producer and causing extra costs.

If a material needs to have its moisture level reduced from 20% to a target level of 14%, with a moisture sensor with a precision of +/- 1.0%, the moisture set point needs to be 13.0% to be sure of hitting a figure on or below the target. The amount of moisture removed will therefore be 7.0%, which requires more than 733 kWh (146.6 kgCO2e) of energy. Employing a sensor with a precision of +/- 0.5%, the set point can be defined as 13.5%. Since this is closer to the maximum target value, moisture only needs to be reduced by 6.5%, only needing 681 kWh (136 kgCO2e). This gives a saving of 7.14% in energy use.

By using a moisture control system in its production, one Hydronix customer reported a reduction in broken grains by 2.5%, increasing its yield of premium quality product by 4,000 kg per week. 

Choosing a moisture sensor

The ideal sensor would be highly precise, would automatically compensate for changes in operating temperatures and be robust enough to withstand wear.

The Hydronix XT, EX and FS range of sensors have been specifically designed for use in the agri-food industry. These sensors have been designed to suit food safe applications, explosive atmospheres, and high temperatures while maintaining a precise, temperature compensated measurement across the moisture range of the material.

With precise measurement of moisture content, agri-food companies can ensure they use energy more efficiently, building a business that contributes to a more sustainable world. 

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