The drive to end hunger – that’s food for thought

Monday, September 28, 2015

In 1948, the United Nations recognized the ‘Right to food’ in its Declaration of Human Rights. According to the World Bank, we will need to produce at least 50% more food to feed the anticipated population of 9 billion people by 2050. However, climate change has already cut into the global food supply. Heatwaves, droughts and flooding are having a devastating effect on the lives and livelihoods of people around the world.

The topic of food security is a global megatrend being discussed at high levels by governments and policy makers across the planet. The question is, can we in the drives industry have any kind of impact on the production of food and on global food security? The answer is, yes.

The food and beverage industry depends on a large amount of automated processes which have to work reliably. A fault anywhere along the line can have costly results. The need to lower energy consumption and minimize maintenance costs has led to increased demand for ways to boost process control throughout the supply chain. But, perhaps the number one focus in the industry is eliminating unplanned downtime which can have catastrophic consequences. Food and beverage producers face staggering losses due to spoilage if equipment fails.

One of the best ways to reduce energy consumption, improve reliability, and avoid unplanned downtime involves the use of variable speed drives to control the speed of motors. The use of drives on food processing systems and equipment such as conveyors, pumps, mixers and compressors saves energy, reduces wear and tear to extend motor life and performance, and protects sensitive equipment. They also regulate speed and torque, so that different products can be conveyed at different speeds. And, by precisely controlling motor speed, drives enable the fine tuning and precise control of food preparation, transfer, and packaging processes.

Food security is more than just ensuring there is some food on the table. It’s about ensuring there is enough food for everyone, everywhere, that it’s affordable and that the quality is high enough so that it is safe and nutritious to eat.

Take India, for example. The Indian food production numbers are impressive: 150 million tons of fruit and vegetables, 90 million tons of milk and 6.3 million tons of fish are produced every year, making India the world’s largest food producer. However, the quantity of food which never makes it to the consumers’ plates is, unfortunately, equally astronomical. 30% has to be thrown away because the warm climate spoils the fish, destroys the fruit and makes the milk go sour. If only some of the loss could be avoided, this would feed a lot of mouths and improve the lives of Indian farmers and fishermen.

Danfoss works hard every day to engineer the solutions for a better tomorrow, and currently plays a key role in India all the way from the farm to the fork by building a cold chain. This means there is a direct line of cooled produce, right from when the farmer harvests the food through to the processing, the transportation and to when the consumer buys the products and places them in their refrigerator at home. Drives have an important role in many of these processes.

The hygienic design of our drives reduces the risk of contamination, while reliably controlled processes help prevent waste, improve quality and optimize uptime. In some small way, we would like to think we are doing our bit to contribute to greater food security.

Post by John Unbehaun, Global Director, Food and Beverage segment, Danfoss Drives A/S