Professor Martin Howarth in the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering.
Matthew Neville

Yorkshire universities secure £618k grant to support Leeds food manufacturer in becoming more sustainable

Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Bradford have secured more than £618k to support Leeds based food manufacturer Rakusen’s to become more sustainable and meet demand for growth.

Academics from Sheffield Hallam’s National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE) and the University of Bradford’s Faculty of Engineering and Informatics will work alongside Rakusen’s to transform production methods to support the business to reduce emissions and energy consumption by 60 per cent.

The project will also support the 100-year-old business to meet demand for growth in international markets and help it to meet net zero targets while maintaining its heritage.

The two-year project, funded by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, aims to transform Rakusen’s using digital technologies and food science to minimise the company’s carbon footprint and maximise capacity without the need to change the existing machinery.

The business currently uses legacy equipment which provides “limited manufacturing control” and restricts the introduction of new product lines. The future of the business requires it to address these challenges and invest in innovation which is sympathetic to its heritage-based offering.

Through this project, machine intelligence will capture knowledge and skills, moving to intelligent decision-making to support significant reduction in energy usage, carbon footprint and material waste.

The project will also have a positive impact on the workforce by upskilling staff through training and introducing culture change as well as having an impact regionally as most ingredients are supplied locally.

Rakusen’s managing director, Andrew Simpson said: “The company was excited to be working with two eminent Yorkshire based academic institutions to modernise our production processes to improve our sustainability whilst maintaining our heritage based offering.”

Professor Martin Howarth, director of NCEFE at Sheffield Hallam, said: “Our research is focussed on improving sustainability and reducing waste in food production.

“Working with Rakusen’s and their material suppliers, we will use AI techniques to deliver new, highly efficient and low energy processing techniques to improve the consistency and sustainability of Rakusens’ traditional baked products using ingredients from the local region.”

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