Living lab food-water
VEG-i-TEC will be a living lab for applied research, training and demonstrations on the processing of vegetables and potatoes, focusing on the production processes as well as water and energy management, hygienic design et cetera. The need for such a facility, as prof. Imca Sampers indicated, is high: “In our sector, innovations are often translated directly from lab to industrial scale, which can result in problems and inaccuracies. With VEG-i-TEC we’ll be able to introduce a pilot scale, thus facilitating the implementation of technological innovations for the industry. Questions and project proposals for the living lab are already pouring in.”
Room for water
One of the key problems VEG-i-TEC will address, is the elevated water consumption of the potato processing industry. “Measures are already being taken to reduce this consumption,” Sampers admits, “but there’s still a lot of room for optimization. This is why VEG-i-TEC will house a so-called water hall, where innovative water treatment and purification technologies can be tested on pilot scale. In addition, several water tanks will be placed in the basement so that we can stock all the different types of water going in and coming out of the processes for use in further research. Thus, we can investigate which water can be purified and reused.” Alternative water sources such as surface water, rainwater and phreatic groundwater will also be included.
Room for researchers and entrepreneurs
Close collaborations between research institutes and industry are central to the VEG-i-TEC strategy. Both those in the food processing industry and those supplying the technologies will be actively involved in the project. “VEG-i-TEC is strongly rooted in the economical activities of our region,” mayor of Kortrijk Vincent Van Quickenborne noted, “and the researchers will find themselves in a powerful and productive network.” Rector prof. Rik Van de Walle confirmed this. “Here, companies and research institutes will work closely and actively together, with a shared focus on innovation. The boundaries of institutions should never put limits on collaboration!”
VEG-i-TEC aims to close the gap between research and the implementation of technological innovations in the food processing industry. It does so by building a mini food factory with modular pilot installations and a connected water treatment facility. The living lab food-water is realized with support from the European Development Fund, the Provincie West-Vlaanderen and the Hermes Fonds. The project on alternative water sources is part of the Interreg North West Europe project Water Test Network and has received additional financial support from the Provincie West-Vlaanderen, the Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen and the Hermes Fonds.