Why Automation Should Be a Natural Progression for Feed Manufacturers.

By 2050, the world’s population is projected to reach about 9.7 billion, according to United Nations projections. We certainly expect the demand for animal protein to rise in tandem with population growth, unless everyone suddenly becomes a vegetarian (which is highly unlikely!). According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the consumption of animal protein is projected to rise by 73%, and dairy consumption is predicted to grow by 58% by 2050.  

As animal protein consumption rises, the feed required to sustain animals until they reach maturity is also expected to increase in demand. As a result, the global demand for animal feed is expected to increase to 1.5 billion tonnes in 2050, with the majority of the growth occurring in Asia and Africa

 To meet the increasing demand for feed, manufacturers will need to produce a larger quantity of feed. The challenges faced by feed manufacturers today, such as product quality, safety, process reliability, and low operational costs, will become more pronounced as demand increases. Therefore, a new approach to the entire feed manufacturing process is necessary. Luckily, advancements in animal feed technology have enabled the integration of automation into the production process, allowing for increased production rates without sacrificing quality. 

 In this article we highlight the benefits of automation to animal feed producers and why it should be a natural progression for any forward-thinking business. 


Doing more with less via automation 

Producing more certainly has its challenges, particularly in getting the feed formulations right. Mixing, in particular, is considered to be one of the most critical and essential operations in feed manufacturing. Lack of proper mixing can lead to reduced diet uniformity, affecting not only animal performance but regulatory compliance as well. Further, feed processing is becoming an increasingly challenging task due to the emergence of new raw materials and technologies, as well as the growing need for advanced research to control rising feed costs. 


This is a problem that Martijn van Eijk, sales manager at Dutch equipment manufacturer KSE Process Technology, believes can be easily resolved through automation. “The need to increase productivity is among the reasons automation has become more necessary in feed mills,” he observes. 


“The requirements and regulations for animal nutrition are rapidly increasing, and formulations are becoming more complicated. The industry bar is set higher when it comes to the tracing of ingredients and proportioning and ingredient quality.” 


Van Eijk believes plant automation will become increasingly more important in the next few years, as the requirements and regulations set to animal nutrition rapidly evolve and formulations become more complicated. 


Luckily for millers, many technology providers have introduced new tools to monitor critical parameters of the feed processing process, especially, batching, mixing, and pelleting. This kind of automation enables mill operators to have a reliable and flexible process, producing optimal quality with the lowest energy usage. A benefit for millers is that the automated system ensures that no feed is wasted by adding precisely the required amount into the mixer. 


Automation also creates a consistent system for completing tasks, which eliminates the need for additional labor. This can be a challenge for feed producers looking to scale, as the costs of hiring and training new employees can be a pain point. 

Automation enables mill operators to have a reliable and flexible process, producing optimal qulity with the lowest energy usage. An additional benefit is that automation ensures no feed is wasted.


Pellets join the automation bandwagon 

As pellet feeds grow in popularity due to their high digestibility, many feed manufacturers are prioritizing the production of pellet feeds. Naturally, automation is following this trend, and there are solutions available that can help millers increase their capacity to produce high-quality pellets. Swiss supplier of milling technology solutions Buhler is a leader in this field. The company recently introduced a new PelletingPro smart pellet moisture control technology. This technology utilizes sensor and automation systems, along with cloud data availability, to enable feed millers to operate pelleting lines under stable process conditions. It also ensures maximum efficiency and reliability. 


Danish-based Andritz Feed & Biofuel also has the 3-roll automatic roll adjustment system for the Paladin 2000 pellet mill which enables different distances to be set between the die and the rolls. According to Andritz, the automatic system provides feed manufacturers with the capability to choose the optimal distance between the roll and die for various recipes on a single pellet mill. This ensures a higher-quality and more stable product, as well as a wider range of by-products. 


Automation delivers huge savings 

 Production costs are one of the challenges that feed mills encounter due to the increase in energy costs and the need duty to operate sustainably in the face of climate change. According to Willem de Vaan, the managing director at Pelleting Technology Netherlands (PTN), PTN’s new MonoRoll pellet press, which is a single-roll pellet press, is unique in its design and concept. It can help feed mills achieve significant energy savings and deliver higher output. When used, the press can deliver a 20% to 25% increase in energy efficiency versus conventional pellet mills. 


Automation of batching and mixing processes substantially reduces error and variation. With an easily re-programmable controller, millers can adjust recipes without significant downtime and reduce waste, significantly reducing expenses. The correct automation solution has been seen to solve the problem of precision and consistency by scale weighing ingredients quickly and to correct amounts ensuring automatic distribution according to pre-programmed recipes. 


Powering Predictive Maintenance 

Automation has also made predictive maintenance a no-brainer, which has in turn saved millers huge costs normally associated with frequent downtimes. Through sensor technology, millers are able to collect data which not only shows when components are approaching failure, but it also provides plant managers at feed manufacturing facilities with insight to save budgets and reduce waste by switching to condition-based maintenance. 

Andritz is one of the technology suppliers offering solutions for predictive maintenance. The Metris Vibe is a wireless vibration and temperature sensor that can monitor the health status of mechanical equipment, regardless of the original manufacturer. “Durable and wireless, the sensor works in all rough environments and delivers lower operating costs through predictive maintenance as well as increased uptime, reduced maintenance, higher production reliability, and improved safety,” the company says. 

Sensor technology isn’t limited to the mill. Feed supply chain automation provider BinSentry has developed a sensor solution to determine the feed levels in on-farm feed bins and use the data to place feed orders from its reordering platform. “This visibility into what’s happening on-farm has huge downstream benefits, from resource planning to production scheduling to more efficient transportation for deliveries,” says Randall Schwartzentruber, CEO and co-founder, BinSentry. With BinSentry, Randall assures farmers of optimized feed ordering that ensures the right feed arrives to the right bins at the right time — eliminating late orders, overfills, and feed transfers. 

This feature appeared in the June 2023 issue of Healthcare Middle East & Africa. You can read this and the entire magazine HERE