Universities secure £618k grant to help traditional cracker maker Rakusen’s more sustainable
Researchers at the University of Bradford and Sheffield Hallam University have secured £618k from Innovate UK to support Leeds-based business Rakusen’s to become more sustainable and meet demand for growth.
Academics from the University of Bradford’s Faculty of Engineering and Informatics and Sheffield Hallam’s National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE) 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 that produces flame-baked water crackers and biscuits in the UK, 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, 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 UoB & SHU to modernise our production processes to improve our sustainability whilst maintaining our heritage based offering.”
Dr Savas Konur, Reader in Computer Science, University of Bradford said: “We are delighted to work on this highly interdisciplinary project that addresses very specific technological challenges resulting from transforming a traditional food manufacturer to an efficient enterprise fully utilising digital technologies, including Big Data, Industrial Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, as well as Food Science to minimise its carbon footprint and maximise its capacity without the need to change the existing legacy machinary and lose its 'heritage' identity.
“The project will address the challenges in energy sustainability, productivity, operational efficiency, capacity constraints and waste in the baking industry and will also contribute to the UK's net zero targets.”
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.”