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Aviko gets funding from European Union for new eco-friendly blanching system.

Dutch potato processor Aviko is getting support from the European Union under a program that encourages use of ground-breaking technologies to tackle environmental problems.

Through the EU's LIFE Environment program, the Steenderen, Holland-headquartered company is receiving financial support for its project to develop a closed loop blanching system for the potato processing industry. The aim of the project is to develop an innovative method of blanching potatoes in a more environmentally friendly manner.

Aviko processes potatoes to produce speciality products. Blanching the peeled potatoes is one of the processing steps, whereby sugars are removed. If the potatoes were not blanched, finished products would have hard, dark brown patches after being deep-fried. Unfortunately, valuable substances such as amino acids, vitamins and minerals, which Aviko would prefer to keep in the potato, also pass into the blanching water.

With the currently used method, the water has to be replaced when it is so saturated with sugars that it cannot absorb any more of them. Saturated blanching water is channeled into the wastewater network of the regional water board and, after appropriate treatment, is discharged into surface water. Aviko's wastewater also contains valuable substances, which are lost upon discharge. In addition, the company must regularly pump up groundwater and heat it to the blanching temperature.

Aviko expects that the closed loop blanching method will considerably cut its consumption of groundwater and discharges of blanching water. This represents a major reduction of the burden on the environment.

The power of the new technology lies in the closed system, in which the same water can be used repeatedly for blanching. Aviko has succeeded in converting the sugars in the blanching water into other natural substances. This prevents the blanching water from becoming saturated with the sugars, which can therefore be continuously blanched out of the potatoes. There is almost no need to replace the water, so less wastewater has to be discharged and less groundwater has to be abstracted. Moreover, less energy is required to bring the blanching water up to the necessary temperature.

While the sugars are converted into other substances, the amino acids, minerals and vitamins remain in the blanching water. The water becomes saturated with them and therefore cannot absorb any more from the potatoes. This has no effect on the transfer of sugars from the potatoes to the water, but means that the other valuable substances remain in the potatoes. Aviko therefore improves the yield from the processed substances.

The company's process technologists and the process engineers from parent firm Cosun Food Technology Centre have succeeded in finding a solution to the problem of converting the sugars in the blanching water into another natural substance. The know-how behind the closed loop blanching method is so innovative that Aviko has applied for a patent.
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Apr 1, 2006
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