Cooling tofu efficiently – new rapid cooling systems with smart automation for Berief Food
In the Münsterland region of Germany, a company was already working with tofu at a time when this food was still completely unknown to most people. For more than 35 years now, Berief Food GmbH has developed and produced tasty, plant-based foods from regional raw materials – and, since 2006, even with organic quality. As pioneer in the manufacture of tofu, the company has expanded its range of plant-based foods with drinks, yoghurts and cooking creams. Tofu is derived from organic soybeans and is available in stores in natural or smoked variants and in minced or sliced form. For the manufacture of its organic tofu, Berief Food looked for support and acquired the cooling tunnel expertise from airinotec.
An innovative project in an industry of growing importance
Berief Food entrusted airinotec with the conception, delivery, installation, and commissioning of two customized rapid cooling systems for the production of tofu. There were two important components to the project, the cooling chambers with integrated high-performance fans and air coolers, and the automation solution including electric cabling. As the industrial production of plant-based products such as tofu is a new field in Germany, the engineers at airinotec were of course immediately very enthusiastic about the challenge posed by this exciting task. They could use the oppurtunity to apply their comprehensive engineering expertise and decades of experience in servicing the food manufacturing industry to design a tailor-made solution.
Special requirements of tofu production
The cooling of the vacuum-packed and autoclaved product must be rapid and energy efficient. In the downstream manufacturing process, the tofu is treated thermally or heated in an autoclave, which it leaves at a temperature of approx. 55°C. Every transport trolley loaded with tofu also contains a few liters of adherent water generated during the production process. The product must then be cooled down to 13°C. To determine the cooling times, the technicians from airinotec first undertook cooling tests in their own test facility using tofu provided by the client. After a detailed analysis of the findings, the project at Berief Food could go ahead.
Implementation on site – from warehouse to cooling area
What had been a typical warehouse area, was quickly transformed into a fully-fledged industrial cooling area by airinotec’s technicians. The housing of the two cooling chambers was constructed with insulation panels and fitted with access doors on the front as entry and exit for the transport trolleys. Due to the moisture ingress, the structural elements of the rapid cooling system facing the product are made of stainless steel.
All interior areas of the cooling chambers are walk-in and equipped with energy-saving LED lighting. Cooling and fan chambers are easily accessible thanks to the removable RCT (rapid cooling technology) blow-out elements.
The airinotec Rapid Cooling Technology with RCT + turbulence generators is a blowing technique specially developed for cooling processes that ensures regular flow of cooled air in the transport trolleys, optimizing the heat transfer process. The product is thus cooled down rapidly and energy-efficiently.
The optimized cooling process in detail
Following the cooking process in the autoclave and the subsequent draining process, the transport trolleys with the tofu are moved manually into the cooling chambers. Each cooling chamber has three cooling zones that can be independently regulated, each with three cooling spots. The vacuum-packed tofu now cools down for three hours from 55°C to 13°C in the chambers. Next, the tofu is stored in the existing cooling area and cooled down further until it reaches the preset temperature of exactly 7°C.
To ensure rapid and even cooling of the product, the air direction of the cooling air is changed automatically during the cooling process. Temperature sensors precisely record the temperature of the supply air. A software-based control system acts directly on the valves and ensures that the set temperature values are maintained. To save energy, non-occupied cooling zones are switched off automatically. Cold water produced by the client’s cold stores serves as cooling medium for the air coolers. After the cooling process, the transport trolleys are moved out of the cooling chambers again.
User-friendly and energy-saving automation
The design of the automation platform developed by airinotec, CoolMaster-CM based on Siemens Simatic S7, is particularly user-friendly. It controls the rapid cooling systems, optimizes all subsystems with the help of various airinotec Smartware applications, and thereby keeps energy costs low. Remote diagnosis, remote maintenance and service are carried out via airinotec’s VPN client in Bayreuth.
Conclusion – tofu? Yes, please!
The air conditioning and process air technology experts from airinotec have shown that even new areas such as tofu production can be mastered by the Franconian engineering spirit without any problems. Based on their expertise in the dairy industry combined with sound engineering know-how and focus on efficiency, the ideal solution could be found for Berief Food – tailor-made to meet the operational requirements on site.