NIR analysers raises animal feed productivity and profits

NIR analysers raises animal feed productivity and profits

Every animal feed producer knows the closer moisture content comes to the permitted threshold the more profitable production becomes. Maximum exploitation of this potential can be achieved by using the process analysers of NIR-Online. Real time process control assures that every batch precisely reaches the required moisture and protein value. 

RKW in Kehl, Germany generates substantial additional annual turnover by using NIR-Online analytical technology. RKW produces 75,000 tons of mixed feed annually and has installed an NIR-Online process analyser at the end of the mixing unit. If a mixed batch shows data below the permitted moisture value an appropriate level of water can be added promptly therefore increasing production revenues.

Starting signal for production

At 12noon within the RKW Kehl production facility, daily orders are started. First of all the mixing unit recalls valid recipe codes for the mixtures and checks if all the necessary raw materials are in stock. Each feed variety is composed of the main cereal components, soya and maize. Minerals, vitamins and amino acids are also added. The main components need a certain ratio so that each recipe offers the required content of moisture, fat, protein, crude fibre and starch. Due to the variable quality of raw materials, the ideal mixing ratio has to be carefully calculated.

RKW Kehl manages approximately 400 feed recipes from their database with an upward trend. “An increasing number of customers feed their livestock and pets with customized mixtures” explains Mr. Hans-Peter Luhr, General Manager of RKW Kehl. 

Mixtures under scrutiny

When the mixer starts to produce the ordered batches via the process control system, the selected raw materials are weighed and mixed. Within one hour RKW Kehl can produce approximately 10 batches of 3 tons each in its mixing facility. Time has an important role as Hans-Peter Luhr emphasizes: “Our biggest requirement is for customized mixtures which are produced on request. This means the span of time between production and delivery needs to be extremely short.”

The important questions crucial for quality control are: Does a feed mixture fall below a required protein and fat content and is there scope for more moisture? Previously these questions could only be answered following the long waiting times of a traditional laboratory analysis. 

The process analysers of NIR-Online quickly solve the problem. The NIR device with a vision panel is installed at the end of the mixing unit. The feed mixtures are irradiated with near infrared (NIR) light through the vision panel. Reflected light passes back through the vision panel and is read by a diode array spectrometer. The reflections vary depending on the concentration of measured parameters in raw materials and feed mixtures. Every 30 millisecond a measurement is made in the 20 minute production cycle – therefore RKW Kehl receives hundreds of thousands of real time readings. Data is processed online by the NIR process software ‘SX-Center’ and is shown as a continuous graph on a monitor in the control room. If pre-set parameters are over or under, corrective adjustments are made immediately.

Adjustments in real time

If too low a protein value is measured the further processing or delivery of the feed mixture is stopped as well as the production of prior batches. “By using NIR-Online, expensive rejects and complaints can now be minimized” Mr. Luhr as he described the financial advantages of the NIR-Online solution. This benefit is further increased with the possibility of adding moisture in real time.

The NIR-Online process software calculates the difference between actual value and set point without stopping production, ensuring moisture addition is precisely controlled for each batch. “If we are able to approach only 0.5 per cent to the moisture set point of a batch we can sell more than 375 tons of additional mixed feed per year – a substantial additional asset ” calculates Hans-Peter Luhr. “our investment in NIR-Online technology will be paid for in just a few months”.

Representative samples

Another NIR-Online device is installed in the laboratory for moisture control of dog and cat feed. This mobile system consists of a turning sample dish with a large capacity of approximately one litre of feed. The NIR-Online measuring device is installed above the dish. Other basic moisture analysers can only test very small quantities, NIR-Online however, delivers by contrast more reliable representative data as a result of the larger sample capacity. Each sample rotates for 40 seconds on the tray. “We can reach the exact set point for moisture in cat and dog feed with NIR-Online analysis” Mr Luhr emphasized. “The balancing act between the shelf life of the product and the acceptance of a quality product by the animal is consistently achieved.”

Complete documentation

 “With NIR-Online technology we are able to detect and compensate very subtle and short-run variations in production, the mixtures, the raw material quality and moisture content in real time.” If the spectrometer is completely integrated into the existing process control system highly detailed documentation is made available. RKW Kehl can therefore meet the highest expectations of production quality as well as the legal demands for traceability within production processes.

Summary of NIR-Online

NIR-Online process analysers are the world’s first pre-calibrated, optical system for online analysis and control of organic and non-organic substances in production and processing. Due to their special configuration, NIR-Online systems can be integrated within nearly every production environment. The costs of traditional laboratory analysis are no longer required and instead of this random examination a continuous real time insight into the process is provided. Quality variations in production can be adjusted in seconds making long delays for laboratory results a thing of the past.

For non-organic products like metals or minerals the NIR-online system with an additional high resolution camera is recommended. The camera is able to measure the external features of the product even minimal differences in colour, structure and size allowing analysis of the chemical ingredients with results shown graphically.    

Suffolk Automation is the sole distributor for NIR-Online in the UK
Telephone 01473 829188