By Pieter-Jan Loveniers, Imca Sampers (U.Gent), Harald Saelens (Scaldopack) and Thierry Bénézech (INRAE)

The Belgium case study aims to develop an innovative user-friendly packaging machine adapted to the need of small (e.g. farmers) and mid-sized actors (e.g. farmers in agricultural marketing cooperative) (picture). Two options will be followed to ensure an easy cleaning of the machine.

There is a demand for packaging machines for liquid or mashed products adapted to the needs of small and mid-sized actors, that meet the hygienic design standards. The needs are defined as accessible, convenient to use, easy to clean and maintain, aiming at aseptic processes for longer shelf-life products, easy to use using fun and practical packaging for young children, teenagers and of course adults.

The current situation for small actors is manual packaging, which takes time and effort, and/or using machines that are built themselves not even meeting the basic hygiene requirements, offering safe and reliable products at the same level as those offered by large processors.

As the machine will be used by potentially different actors, e.g., farmers or groups of farmers in a cooperative, the equipment must be easy to clean. Two ways are followed to meet these mandatory requirements, (i) an automatic cleaning system attached to the machine and (ii) a design of the machine allowing easy access to all parts, no hidden areas, easy to wash material in an economical time. The part corresponding to the packaging of the products is protected by an aseptic environment linked to a sterile air supply acting as a protective barrier. A sterilization unit for the packaging material may be present if needed.