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Micro and Small Food processing Unit Case Study

"How IoT Automation can increase the efficiency of Solar Drying method in food processing units"

It has been observed that semi-controlled natural drying methods is one of the important process adopted by many of the food processing units for item which needs to be preserved for longer period of time .

One of the major drawbacks of natural drying process is that manufacturers have lesser control over rate of drying and the quality of dried product. Moreover, longer the inventory is kept in the designated natural drying location higher is the costs incurred as inventory sitting in the plant is a lost opportunity to sell. Furthermore, frequent fluctuation in temperature and humidity during day and night, rainfall etc increases the chances of the items being infected with fungus.

Mechanical dryers and active dryers have higher rate of drying which can also be controlled to meet quality requirements/standards but these are expensive equipment to buy and not all Micro and small processing units can afford such units.

So what is the most cost effective solution for this problem? During a recent pilot project conducted by Nibiaa Devices with a well established Tea Processing unit which employs Natural drying method for one of the several exotic variety of tea they produce, it was observed that in case of leaf drying process, as the major drying time involves the removal of internal moisture, falling rate is the predominant drying mechanism involved.

The energy required for drying increases with humidity in the air. In natural drying, dry climate results in faster drying and less energy for drying process. In humid locations, increase in temperature of air is required to decrease the relative humidity. The image above is the real-time data collected on Temperature and Humidity fluctuation from day to night. Great insights were observed using such IoT technology to monitor and collect the environmental data of these natural drying processes.

It was observed that the effective drying process of the leaves were happening for about 8 hour/ day while the rest of the time the relative humidity of the place was above 60% for the rest of the 24 hours. Since, the effective drying/ moisture reduction process was happening for only 8 hours/day, the leaves were kept for longer period which meant costs increase as inventory were kept for longer period. Moreover, the relative humidity was going up-to 100% at night which meant higher changes of fungal infection for the leaves. Reducing Humidity is the most critical step in the process and it requires some low costs automation which can greatly improve the process without buying expensive equipment.

Nibiaa Devices recommended installing exhaust fans to circulate the air and to install incandescent light bulbs which will increase the temperature and in turn reduce the relative humidity at night time. There is no way such a daily task of switching on the exhaust fans and light bulbs at night can be done on regular basis and assign a staff for the same so Nibiaa Devices automated the whole process of switching on the bulbs and exhaust fan based on a trigger which will automatically do whenever the room humidity goes above 80% at a very low costs and send a notification email/SMS.

Installation of just a basic Temperature humidity sensor and I/O Controller to automate the bulbs and exhaust fans, the factory was able to reduce the time of drying the leaves by days and which resulted in costs saving of the manufacturer and improvement in products churning out from factory faster.

Such low cost automation can be easily installed by micro and small food processing units which can not afford expensive System Integrator Solutions and get real benefit in the form of increasing efficiency, reducing costs and ultimately increasing revenue affecting the bottomline of the organization.

Posted By Aeroshil.

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