RESEARCHERS at the University of Bradford and Sheffield Hallam University have collectively secured over £600,000 to support a Leeds-based business become more sustainable.

Academics from the University of Bradford’s Faculty of Engineering and Informatics and Sheffield Hallam’s National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE) have got the funding – totalling £618,000 – from Innovate UK.

They will work alongside Rakusen’s, which makes snacks and water crackers, to transform production methods and reduce emissions and energy consumption by 60 per cent.  

The project will also support the 100-year-old business to meet demand for growth in international markets and help it to meet net zero targets.

The two-year project aims to transform Rakusen’s by using digital technologies and food science to minimise the company’s carbon footprint without the need to change existing machinery.

The business currently uses legacy equipment, which provides limited manufacturing control and restricts the introduction of new product lines.

Through this project, machine intelligence will capture knowledge and skills, moving to intelligent decision-making to support significant reduction in energy usage, its carbon footprint and material waste.

Rakusen’s Managing Director, Andrew Simpson, said: “The company was excited to be working with two eminent Yorkshire-based academic institutions 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.

“It 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.

“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, added: “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 Rakusen’s’ traditional baked products using ingredients from the local region.”

Previously, the University of Bradford collaborated with Rakusen's on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, using 'big data' to improve production.