Airtech Distribution at Dundonald has been assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to develop innovative technology that enables meat processing plants to reduce both water and energy costs and to improve hygiene.
The company, a longstanding distributor of industrial products, has applied the latest sensor and timer technology in the design of a new spray system for sterilising knives used in meat processing plants.
Invest NI has assisted the development of the new system with design guidance and the provision of support funding to assist Airtech with intellectual property (IP) protection.
The new sterilising technology, which has been trialled successfully in two local meat plants, was announced by Robin Adair, Airtech Distribution’s Managing Director, an experienced industrial engineer, and welcomed by Olive Hill, Invest NI’s Director of Innovation and Technology Solutions.
Mr Adair said: “The new steriliser system is the outcome of an approach from an existing client in meat processing, who asked me for advice on reducing the water and energy costs of existing sterilising equipment used throughout the industry.
“Current sterilising systems are expensive because there’s no effective means of controlling water input and energy required to keep the temperature at a minimum of 82 degrees. Companies currently use vast amounts of water and heat in their processing operations. The difference is the same as it is between bathing and showering.
“Typically, knives are kept in a bath of water, with a constant feed of hot water to maintain both the temperature and to keep the water relatively clean.
“The system I’ve developed is akin to a temperature controlled shower. The steriliser uses the minimum amount of hot water and reduces water consumption by as much as 95 per cent and offers significant savings in energy usage.
“Also swab tests have demonstrated that the new system is cleaner and safer because it virtually eliminates any residual bacteria that can be found in existing sterilisers when water is allowed to sit for lengthy periods.
“Invest NI’s encouragement and technical support have been invaluable and have enabled me to develop and trial fully featured prototype that have been tested successfully in two local meat processing plants,” he added.
Mrs Hill said: “Our support for Airtech is an excellent example of how Invest NI assists companies, both large and small, to turn ideas into innovative products to meet market opportunities.
“This is an important development that could assist meat processing, one of our biggest and most successful industries, to strengthen competitiveness, particularly in export markets, through greater control over increasingly expensive water and energy.
“The environmental benefits flowing from this new technology system could also be substantial for individual companies and the wider community.”