“During the last year, we have visited several flour mills within the European region and saw their challenges with pest management and the fumigation of their plants. That’s why we decided to open a Termico hub in Germany from where we offer our heat treatment services to customers within Europe…We believe with our services and solutions with focus on energy and food safety, we are on the right track. For the end consumers and Fridays for future generation, food safety and sustainability are getting more and more important. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated that trends in our perspective.”
Chief Technology Officer
Insufficient drying and poor storage conditions can bring about grain losses caused by the combined action of moulds, insects, rodents and other pests. Given the increasing food demand of an increasing population, reducing the postharvest loss is of high importance for global food security. Pests in the grain and food processing industries are a big challenge. Due to perfect environmental development conditions in food processing plants, it is extremely difficult to control pests efficiently especially in a tropical climate.
Switzerland-based Wingmen Group, partnering with Termico GmbH, offers innovative heat treatment technology for the food processing industries. They developed a heat treatment solution to the needs of the food manufacturing industry as an alternative to the traditional pest control methods without using chemicals or poisons.
Andreas Hummel, Chief Technology Officer at Wingmen Group, answers our questions on the importance of pest control in the milling industry and the advantages of the heat treatment applications in the plants.
First of all, could you please provide us with some brief background information on Wingmen Group and its services?
Wingmen Group was founded in 2018 as a joint venture between experts in the food processing and flour milling industry. Our core activities are grouped into 3 categories:
Project Consultation: We consult customers according to their needs from the first project idea until the 24/7 daily operation. With our experience, we support customers around the globe on their projects. If investment estimation, concept studies, RFQ preparation, process design, or operator training. Our service packages are individual designed according to the customer’s needs.
Energy: As energy prices are increasing around the globe, while the margins on flour remaining the same, energy-saving projects are getting more and more important. With our unique energy consultation services, we analyze the overall production plants with the target to reduce KW/h per ton of wheat to a minimum as possible. Our main focus is usually on the pneumatic systems as they have the biggest saving potential
Innovation in combination with milling tradition, the intelligent cleaning robot Kari-V1 developed for flour mills.
Quality and Hygiene: Under the name ADVACTORY, we developed a factory management solution to digitalize all processes in food and feed processing companies. 100% transparency, in real-time and paperless. Part of Advactory is as well our intelligent cleaning robot Kari which was specifically developed for the flour milling industry.
Since the beginning of this year, we offer now heat treatment services for flour and feed mills in Europe with our partner company Termico GmbH in Germany.
There are many consulting companies in the food processing industry. What are the qualities and characteristics that make you different from your rivals?
Our philosophy is to be in the flour mill hands-on with the millers, only like this we can understand the needs of our customers. Therefore, we do not visit customers with suits and ties.
We don’t show customers problems, we deliver solutions. For every solution we purpose, we can submit immediately a rough budget estimation and show a possible return of investment.
Could you share with us new projects that you recently completed?
At the beginning of this year, we completed the energy-saving projects at 2 of our customers in Germany.
Mönsheimer Mühle: We consulted the customer with the replacement of old rollers mills and modifications in the flowsheet. In the end, we were able to increase the daily capacity from 100t/24h to 115t/24h with the same product quality. On the same time, we were able to reduce the energy consumption of the mill pneumatic system by more than 20%. Our consultancy fees were paid immediately, through the significant energy reduction per ton of wheat.
Roland Mills United: At one of their flour mills in Recklinghausen, we readjusted their mill pneumatic with our unique services. In the end, we achieved more than 30% energy savings without compromising operational safety.
Which regions and markets do you see as potential?
We do not have specific regions where our customers are located. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we worked in the past year mainly with customers within Europe. However, by Q3 of this year, we expect that we can visit international customers again.
You have started your European services operation with Termico for heat treatments in flour mills since the beginning of this year. Can you give us some detail on this partnership?
During the last year, we have visited several flour mills within the European region and saw their challenges with pest management and the fumigation of their plants. That’s why we decided to open a Termico hub in Germany from where we offer our heat treatment services to customers within Europe.
What are the challenges of traditional pest control methods?
Currently in most of the mill’s phosphine or hydric cyanide gas are used for fumigation. As phosphine gas causes corrosion on cupper, this is especially for new flour mills a high risk as electrical parts can get heavily damaged with the gas. Hydric cyanide is very effective however, it leaves residues that can be measured in the finish products. For many of the end customers, this is nowadays not acceptable anymore, sustainability is getting more and more important.
What are the benefits and advantages of using heat treatment for pest control in the milling plant?
Heat treatment has several advantages compare to traditional fumigations methods:
Downtime, as the installation, preparation and removal of the heat treatment equipment can be done during the normal production the overall downtime of production plant can be reduced. At one of our customers we completed the heat treatment of a complete flour mill building with 3 production lines within 44 hours. The mills were stopped in total for 49 hours. No risk for machines and equipment, as we just go to temperatures in a range between 52-58C° there is no risk for machines and electronic parts.
Hands on mill pneumatic optimization at Roland Mills United in Recklinghausen / Germany
Flexible method, the heat treatment can be used only in single rooms or building parts. As there is no evacuation needed, other lines can be still in operation as there is no evacuation of the complete production site required.
Safety, as our heat treatment is 100% free of poison there is no risk for employees. A visit in the rooms during a heat treatment is highly recommended as hiding places of insects will become visible.
Permissions and cooperation’s with local authorities are not required compare to a fumigation.
What is the difference between your Termico equipment compare to other available solutions in the market for heat treatment?
When we founded Termico in 2015 we evaluated all available equipment in the market and decided at the end to develop our own machines. Very popular in the market are solutions with oil and gas burners to perform heat treatment, the so-called pressurized method. Air from outside the building is heated and blown in the building. However, the overall energy costs for a heat treatment are 2-3 times higher compare to the recirculation electric system which we are using now. As well the fact to operate with burners on milling site didn’t convince us from a safety perspective.
Termico-Silo THT, heat treatment unit to perform heat treatment in flour silo and grain silos.
The outbreak of the coronavirus has caused one of the most significant macroeconomic shocks of the early 21st century. How COVID-19 pandemic has affected the grain and food processing industries? How will this pandemic change the future of your industry?
For us as a young start up the pandemic was in the first months a shock. Our customers were mainly flour mills out of Europe, which we couldn’t visit anymore. So, we took the pandemic as opportunity to establish relationships with millers in Europe and developed services according to their needs as for example our heat treatment services or our intelligent cleaning robot Kari. However, we learned as well that many things can be done remotely through a video call which was before impossible.
Heat distribution with the Termico recirculation air heating system.
What are your future targets in your operating market? What are your expectations for the coming years as a company?
We believe with our services and solutions with focus on energy and food safety, we are on the right track. For a long time, these topics had minor priority in the milling industry. However nowadays for the end consumers and Fridays for future generation, food safety and sustainability are getting more and more important. The Covid-19 pandemic has even accelerated that trends in our perspective. Therefore, we plan for the coming year to expand the Wingmen network with specialist in the milling and food processing industry to serve our customers.
Termico heat treatment in a modern Bühler mill in Germany.