Aleph Farms and Mitsubishi bring lab-grown meat to Japan

Aleph Farms is bringing cultivated meat to Japan via a new agreement with Mitsubishi Corporation’s Food Industry Group. Aleph Farms, an Israeli food-tech start-up, will provide BioFarm, its scalable manufacturing platform, for the cultivation of whole-muscle steaks. Mitsubishi Corporation will provide its expertise in biotechnology processes, branded food manufacturing, and local distribution channels in Japan. “The MoU with Mitsubishi Corporation’s Food Industry Group marks an important milestone for us, as we methodically build the foundations of our global go-to-market activities with selected partners,” said Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms. “The cooperation demonstrates Aleph Farms’ strategy of working together with the food and meat industries to ensure a successful integration of cultivated meat within the ecosystem, while maximising the positive impact we make.” Aleph Farms and Mitsubishi Corporation are members of the Cellular Agriculture Study Group, a consortium implementing policy proposals under the Japanese Center for Rule-Making Strategy. The consortium brings together a range of experts on the definition and construction of cellular agricultural foods. It also adds clarification of conditions for Japanese products and technologies to have international competitiveness and establishes mechanisms for coexistence and division of roles with existing industries.

UFlex to double aseptic liquid packaging production capacity

UFlex Limited, an Indian flexible packaging and polymer science company, is doubling the production capacity of its aseptic liquid packaging plant. The plant, based in Sanand, Gujarat, will see its capacity rise from 3.5 billion to 7 billion packs per annum. Works are expected to complete within the next ten months. The expansion follows increasing demand for the company’s aseptic packaging laminates, having secured a number of new contracts. Driven by a strong and healthy order book and consistent market growth, this initiative doubles the production capacity and will allow creating company’s expanding operations team by adding more workforce, which will strengthen the company’s expansion plan. “Asepto expansion is part of the growing need for aseptic packaging and I am excited that our team and state-of-the-art facilities we have are well-positioned to respond to the increasing demand for our services and innovative technology in aseptic packaging,” said Ashwani Kumar Sharma, President & CEO, Aseptic Liquid Packaging Business, UFlex. “Despite the pandemic, we have continued to deliver services without a pause and carried on with innovative thoughts to deliver expected results from our customers.” “We have been working on taking Asepto globally, and our expansion takes a leap to enlarge the brand’s horizons to different continents. “We remain the most innovative packaging company when it comes to aesthetic rejuvenation in aseptic packaging space. The expansion steps in our operations reflect ASEPTO’s strong position in the marketplace and positive outlook for the future.” The first phase of expansion will focus on adding new machines to the existing. Once the commissioning of the project is complete, the company would take steps for global expansion.

UK extends Seasonal Workers Pilot for 2021 harvest

The number of workers permitted to travel to the UK to pick and package fruit and vegetables will be increased for the 2021 harvest. Originally launched in 2019, the Seasonal Workers Pilot has been extended and expanded for an additional year with 30,000 visas available for those wanting to come and work on UK farms for a period of up to six months. According to the government, the workers will play a “vital role in helping horticulture growers pick and package their produce in 2021, whilst reducing their reliance on migrant labour as we exit the EU”. The expansion of the scheme follows a long period of close working with the National Farmers Unions and the Association of Labour Providers, across all parts of the UK and in particular recognition of the need for additional seasonal labour in Scotland to support local rural economies and the renowned soft fruit growers. In addition, the government alongside industry will build on this year’s Pick for Britain campaign and actively promote the recruitment and retention of domestic seasonal workers in 2021. “We will always back our farmers and growers, who work hard all year round to provide us with a secure supply of fruit and vegetables,” said Environment Secretary George Eustice He added that the measures “will provide vital labour, both domestic and from abroad, to our farmers and growers to help gather the 2021 harvest to feed the nation. Our review into automation will pave the way for a pioneering and efficient future for our fruit and vegetable growers.” NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said: “This is welcome and positive news, not just for Britain’s growers but also for shoppers who want to enjoy home-grown fresh produce. “By expanding the Seasonal Workers Pilot, the Government is sending a clear message that it is important for Britain to be able to produce its own fruit and veg, which has huge potential for growth. “This scheme will allow growers to employ seasonal workers at key times to pick a wide variety of fresh produce on British farms.”

Brakes makes good on 2ZERO20 pledge

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Brakes, the foodservice supplier, has completed its pledge to remove all hard-to-recycle black plastic from its own brand range by the end of 2020. The company, which was the first foodservice wholesaler to make the pledge to turn its back on hard black plastics in June 2018, has now completed its promise having changed packaging on almost 500 lines and removed more than 1,000 tonnes of the problematic plastics from its supply chain. Hugo Mahoney, Brakes’ CEO, said: “There have been so many challenges over the past year for suppliers to the hospitality and catering markets, but nonetheless we have maintained a close focus on our CSR commitments. “It is a major achievement to have made good on our promise, especially given the circumstances. As a result of the fantastic effort from Brakes’ colleagues and our fantastic suppliers, more than 1,000 tonnes of hard black plastic is now easily recyclable and no longer being thrown away.” Brakes will launch a new packaging policy early in 2021 to further its progress, having already increased the visibility of recyclable materials by clearer on-pack labelling.

Kerry doubles down on sustainability, joins RE100

Kerry Group has joined RE100, an initiative led by the Climate Group in partnership with CDP, to bring together the world’s most influential companies committed to100% renewable electricity. This is a result of the taste and nutrition company’s recent commitment to source 100% renewable electricity across its operations by 2025. Kerry recently launched its ‘Beyond the Horizon’ sustainably strategy where it announced that it aims to reach over two billion people with sustainable nutrition solutions by 2030. The target to source 100% renewable energy is part of the Group’s commitment on climate action which includes a science-based target for the reduction of operational emissions by 33% by 2030 and to reach net zero emissions before 2050. “Our vision is to be our customers most valued partner, creating a world of sustainable nutrition and today’s commitment is a part of this journey,” said Juan Aguiriano, Group Head of Sustainability. “The scale of the challenge to address the growing climate crisis cannot be underestimated and requires a concerted global effort from all parts of society. “The commitment to using 100% renewable electricity will have an immediate impact and will reduce our footprint by over one million tonnes of carbon between now and 2025, helping us meet our goal of net zero emissions before 2050.” To achieve its renewable electricity target, Kerry will utilise a diversified portfolio of solutions globally, to support its transition and broader goal of net zero carbon.

Kite launches plastic-free bottle protection

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Kite Packaging has launched plastic-free bottle protection for a wide range of fragile items. The employee-owned packaging business has seven sites located around the UK and have always focused on bringing innovative solutions to market. Their latest two product launches involve plastic-free bottle protectors, both 100% recyclable and biodegradable, they make the perfect solution for protecting delicate items. Flexi-Hex With its unique patented honeycomb design, Flexi-Hex is a great alternative to plastic and other protective packaging solutions such as polystyrene, and is much more cost-effective than other paper solutions such as ‘pulp‘ packaging. Extremely strong and adaptable, it is suitable for glass, bottles, homewares, ceramics and much more. Simply place between the two-honeycomb structures and use in conjunction with Kites single wall outer box for ultimate protection during transit. Corrugated sleeving Designed to mould itself around a variety of shapes, our 100% recyclable and biodegradable corrugated sleeving is suitable to protect a wide range of products, from glass, bottles, ceramics, jars, homeware and much more. Moisture resistant, adaptable, and extremely easy to use they are a great lightweight plastic free alternative. Simply place in-between the cylinder shape structure and use in conjunction with Kites tailor-made postal boxes, for added protection during transit fill any voids with Kites paper bubble or SpeedMan paper.

COVID leads to decline in British food & drink exports

Food and drink experts fell by 11.6% to £5.5 billion compared with the same period in 2019, according to new analysis published by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). The decline was largely driven by the impacts of COVID-19, including the closure of hospitality and travel sectors, which has meant a loss of sales into restaurants, cafés, bars and the out-of-home sector across Europe. In the first nine months to September 2020, food and drink exports fell to £15.2bn (-12.9%) when compared to the same period in 2019. Exports to the majority of the top 20 markets decreased, with sales to Spain falling significantly by -33.8%. However, exports to Norway experienced the most substantial increase, rising by 38.4% to £198.8m. When looking at UK export products, pork and breakfast cereals were the only products within the top 10 to show growth, up 12.7%, and 2.5%, respectively. As the UK approaches the end of the transition period, the EU remains a key commercial partner, with over 60% of food and drink exports heading to EU markets. Within the top five products exported to the EU, whisky sales suffered the most, experiencing a reduction of 19% to £901.4m from January to September. Ireland was the top EU destination for food and drink exports, making up almost 30% of overall sales in the EU, reflecting the close integration of UK and Irish food and drink supply chains. Ireland has been a key export market for the UK, particularly over the past 10 years, totalling around 18% of total sales during that time period. Most of the top 10 products exported to Ireland fell in value terms, with cheese and savoury snacks the only categories to show growth. Maintaining these highly integrated supply chains across Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as we leave the EU will be essential for future growth in our industry. “The continued decline in exports in the third quarter of 2020 shows the immense dilemma that UK food and drink exporters are currently facing. With less than one month to go, businesses are still in the dark about what arrangements will be in place following the end of the transition period in January 2021,” said Dominic Goudie, Head of International Trade, FDF. “As the UK makes it way towards economic recovery, ensuring a quick return to growth will be essential to strengthen resilience in our industry. It is vital that we continue to work closely with Government and industry partners to ensure that food and drink exporters have the support they need. “Today’s news of the launch of Open Borders Direct® is a most welcome development and promises to deliver urgently needed support for UK SMEs, helping them to safely navigate key crunch points when trading overseas.”

Deloitte names SME fleet tracking specialist Vimcar as 20th fastest-growing tech company

Earlier this month, Deloitte released its annual Technology Fast 50 2020, recognising the fastest-growing tech companies in the industry. Coming in at number 20 was Vimcar, a fleet tracking company specialising in helping SMEs optimise their fleets. Whilst fleet tracking is traditionally a technology solution only available for larger corporations, Vimcar has focussed on bringing cost-cutting fleet technology to smaller businesses. Its easy-to-use software, strong customer support and affordable pricing has given even smaller businesses, with no dedicated fleet manager, the chance to better track and optimise their fleet. This laser-focus on smaller businesses enabled Vimcar to find a gap in the fleet management market and allowed the company to grow 380% in the last four years and raise over 20 million euros. Many of its customers include SMEs in the food industry. One such customer is Doherty’s Meats, a Northern Irish meat producer. Doherty’s Meat’s strict emphasis on quality means they look to deliver food products to customers as quickly as possible and several times a week. This requires a high-performing vehicle fleet. Brian McQuaid, Sales and Marketing Manager of Doherty’s Meats, was able to install Vimcar’s fleet tracker, Fleet Geo, within minutes of receiving the hardware. A Vimcar customer service agent then gave him a guided tour of the software over the phone to get him up and running. “Now, when a customer calls and asks for a delivery, we are able to give them ETAs. We have hundreds of customers and it’s great to be able to see which van is closest to which customer: a real selling point. Once, one of our vehicles had a breakdown,” he said. “I was able to call the mechanic to describe exactly where the broken down vehicle was, saving a lot of time and hassle.”

SPX FLOW enhances food safety with release of new detectable valve seats

SPX FLOW has released new metal and X-ray detectable seats for its Waukesha Cherry-Burrell® (WCB) range of single seat valves. When combined with metal or X-ray detectable o-rings, the new seats are designed to add further security to critical dairy, food and beverage, and personal care processes. Chris Sinutko, Global Portfolio Manager at SPX FLOW, said: “Contamination by foreign objects is a key concern for processors. The new Tef-Flow™ P-MD seats add an essential extra level of safeguarding that was not available before, giving processors added peace of mind for product safety.” As well as being metal and X-ray detectable, the new valve seat can handle temperatures up to 280°F (137°C), is chemically inert, has a clean-in-place design, and complies with stringent FDA regulations. Furthermore, like metal parts, the seats are extremely durable, offering excellent longevity. The new seats are available as options across the WCB single seat valve range and also offered as a full stem assemblies to easily upgrade existing installations. Sinutko concluded: “SPX FLOW continues to work tirelessly to provide market-leading solutions for enhancing the safety of processing food and beverages. The detectable valve seat is an important step and sets a new benchmark for valve safety in the industry.”

SICK’s ‘Sceptre’ crowns safety system king of the active/passives

With the innovation of its Sceptre high-performance prism optic reflector, SICK has extended the range of its deTem 4 A/P multiple light beam system to eight metres, the longest ever available for an active/passive safety device, suitable for applications up to SIL3 / PLe. The extra-rugged and compact SICK deTem 4 A/P safety light beam system offers wide flexibility to install safe access protection with entry/exit monitoring (muting) in food manufacturing and material handling environments. With sender and receiver integrated into the active device, SICK deTem 4 A/P minimises wiring and helps achieve compact machine designs. With integrated muting functions there is no need for an external module and additional wiring effort. With real-time diagnostics accessible by smartphone through Near Field Communication (NFC), and also via IO-Link, the SICK deTem 4 A/P is a smart system that enables operators to respond quickly to machine downtime. Engineers can access a range of diagnostic status and process data to manage maintenance interventions effectively. Dr Martin Kidman, safety specialist with SICK UK, explains: “The SICK deTem4 Active/Passive light beam system offers operators fingertip diagnostics to respond quickly to stoppages in common access protection applications such as warehousing, palletising or packaging machinery. “You can find out straight away what caused a lockout just by using the easy-to-use status display on your smartphone. “The SICK deTem4 A/P offers all the functionality you would expect from a high-performance SICK safety light beam system, and more. “Its slim housing and active/passive functionality lend themselves to machine layouts where space is limited. With IP65 and IP67 protection ratings, an operating temperature range of -30oC to +55oC, the deTem4 is ready for harsh industrial environments.” Guided by the SICK Safety Assistant smartphone App, and with integral dip switches and automatic range adjustment, in-situ configuration and commissioning are quick and simple and there is no need to use a PC. The SICK deTem4 A/P is a Type 4 device (EN 61496), enabling compliance in applications with requirements up to PLe (EN ISO 13849) and SIL3 (EN 61508).  Ranges from 500mm right up to 8 metres are offered, thanks to the Sceptre’s high-performance optics, with a choice of two or four beams and separations of 300mm or 500mm. The coded light beam option prevents optical interference between devices in side-by-side applications. The SICK deTem4 A/P allows the connection of a restart interlock and/or the facility to monitor external devices (EDM) which can reduce wiring and the need for additional devices in the control cabinet, saving further space.