A NEW device could save the dairy industry millions of pounds a year and stop pollutants entering waterways by detecting processing losses in dairy plants.
Lincoln Agritech Ltd in New Zealand developed the robust, automated biosensor capable of continuous monitoring in commercial operating conditions.
Known as Milk-Guard, the device uses a lactose-specific enzyme to measure the percentage of dairy products present in waste streams and processing lines.
The data is automatically sent to a dairy plant process control room, where operators can monitor them and make changes to the production process when needed.
The technology is being commercialised by start-up company CertusBio, with chief executive Matthew Jones saying two per cent to three per cent of all dairy products are lost during processing and a significant proportion of this could be avoided.
“The estimated total loss for an average dairy industry processing line is NZ$6.5 million (£3.25 million) a year,” Jones says.
“Plant operators will be able to improve the resource and energy efficiency of their plant processes by reducing losses of valuable dairy products and ultimately increasing company profitability,” he says.
Loss-monitoring methods now rely on retrospective testing collected over 24 hours.
“Because this testing is done after the dairy products have been processed, it doesn’t allow for adjustments to be made while the plant is operating, so losses can’t be limited in real time,” Jones says.
Trials at dairy processing plants showed Milk-Guard’s ability to detect product losses during processing.
CertusBio has shown the lactose biosensor technology is robust enough for continuous monitoring applications where a single sensor can be used to make thousands of precise measurements within dairy plant wastewater.
The device can also be used to account for all material entering and leaving a processing plant, liquid transfers within a plant, and segregating raw materials containing high value products.
This combination of uses is expected to provide a significant return on investment for dairy processors.