Sustainability

As a Swiss-based family-owned company, we are particularly
committed to sustainability.

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris showed, fighting global warming is one of the most pressing tasks of our time. By 2050, the world population will have grown to nine billion people. Thanks to economic growth and social progress, poverty is likely to decrease. However, this prospect is challenged by the changes in the climate patterns and their potentially disruptive effects on food supply, water resources, ecosystems, and human health.

The emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) are recognized as being the cause behind climate change. Food waste and the consumption of fossil fuels for transportation and conditioning of buildings are among the major contributors of GHG emissions.

The processes and plants developed by Bühler transform thousands of tonnes of grain every day into food, coat countless square meters of architectural glass with heat-insulating films, cast a huge amount of lightweight construction components for the automotive industry and lithium-ion batteries for electric cars: As a global leader in technology, Bühler is responsible for developing solutions that enable clients to be as efficient as possible with their resources. In this way, not only does Bühler create economic value for its clients, but it also significantly contributes to improve the environmental performance of their products, thereby reducing the global production of GHG.
Sustainability is Bühler’s central business principle. The company committed itself in the Bühler2020 strategy to provide a significant and measurable contribution for a sustainable society. By 2020, Bühler wants to reduce energy consumption and waste at our customers’ sites by 30%. This goal cannot be achieved only by optimizing existing processes. The manufacturing processes for food and materials will have to be completely reconsidered. For this, Bühler sets focus on three strategic areas of innovation:

  • Balanced nutrition
  • food and feed safety
  • resource efficiency

Bühler is also highly committed to improving its own sustainability performance and it reduced its environmental footprint in 2016. Through the new Supplier Code of Conduct, Bühler’s suppliers and business partners have also been included in committing to become more sustainable.

Bühler's 3 strategic areas of innovation:
Balanced nutrition

One of the greatest challenges in feeding the global population is the looming protein gap. By 2050, we will require 265 million additional tonnes of proteins. It will be even more if – as expected – meat consumption rises by as much as 44% due to the higher standard of living in the emerging countries. This implies that we must change our eating habits to a more plant-based diet because the production of animal proteins requires large amounts of resources and is thus not sustainable. Cattle require about 20 kilograms of feed and 16,000 liters of water to build 1 kilogram of body weight. Moreover, the 1.3 billion plus head of cattle in the world emit large amounts of methane – an extremely aggressive greenhouse gas.

One promising approach to intensify the utilization of vegetable proteins for human nutrition are pulses: This gluten-free, satiating crop boasts a high content of proteins and dietary fiber and is becoming increasingly popular also in North America and Europe. Bühler enables its customers to make innovative products on the basis of pulses such as extruded meat substitutes, nutritious pasta based on peas or lentils, or healthy snack foods. They can thereby successfully differentiate themselves in the marketplace and seize business opportunities as they emerge.

New business opportunities are also created in the area of alternative proteins such as insects and algae. Both are extremely efficient protein producers. Insects for instance can recycle as much as 70% of nutrients from organic waste and require very little space. In the next few years, insects are likely to become more significant in the production of sustainable feeds in areas such as aquaculture. In the medium term, they will also play a role in human nutrition. Bühler is engaged with several research institutes and insect processing companies to develop the leading processing solutions for insects on an industrial scale.

Food and feed safety

One important area of activity of Bühler is food and feed safety across the value chain. It starts with safeguarding the value of raw materials in post-harvest handling to avoid the introduction of hazards such as chemical contaminants. For instance mycotoxins, which are produced by fungal mold that grows on food crops, pose a severe threat to humans and animals.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that 25 % of crops are contaminated, and climate change is increasing the pre- valence of aflatoxin, one of the most poisonous mycotoxins. Bühler developed compressive solutions to minimize the burden of aflatoxin in cereal grains. Besides high-capacity drying to stabilize grain after harvest to prevent mold growth, the solution encompasses grain cleaning to eliminate the highly contaminated grain fractions by mechanical cleaning and optical sorting at an early stage from the value chain. Valuable data on the performance of grain cleaning solutions could be generated in large-scale field tests in collaboration with experts from the European initiative MycoKey.

The high incidence of food-borne illness by harmful bacteria and the increasing number of food recalls is a global challenge. Food manufacturers have to im- plement preventive measures to protect end-consumers from microbial hazards. Bühler solutions encompass a number of thermal processes like steaming, roasting, or extruding that contribute to inactivate bacteria. Bühler’s process control, monitoring, and data storage solutions are key enablers for the validation of thermal processes for microbial inactivation as dictated by legal requirements. At the same time, Bühler is developing the innovative application for gentle non-thermal microbial inactivation of food raw materials.

Gains in resource efficiency

Core to Bühler’s sustainability strategy is delivering a higher level of energy efficiency. The company has therefore set itself the target to slash the energy re- quirement at customer sites by 30 % by the year 2020. Here it becomes evident that ecological sustainability and economic benefits are closely related: Because energy costs in the processing industry may account for as much as 10 % of the total operating cost, lower energy consumption trims the total cost and thereby improves the margin for the operating company. The specialists at Bühler have the know-how required to design grinding, extrusion, die-casting, or coating pro- cesses so that they will always be within the optimal range and thus offer high energy efficiency. Retrofit packages, which for example allow the control systems of old plants to be updated, result in significant energy savings.

Finally, innovating individual units, as well as complete solutions can bring a significant impact. In the processing industry the generation of process heat accounts for about 60 % of total energy consumption. In pasta production, the drying process is energy-intensive. With the Bühler Ecothermatik long-goods pasta dryer, energy consumption is reduced by 40 % thanks to its special heat exchanger design. And the Ceres breakfast cereals dryer is designed to ensure that heat will enter the product more quickly, thus reducing the drying time. Mechanical energy is also a major factor. If motors of the best efficiency class were always applied, this would allow 2,800 terawatt-hours of electric power to be saved and 1.8 billion tonnes of GHG emissions to be avoided every year on a global scale. By using reluctance motors, Bühler has been able to slash the electric power requirement in an animal feed plant by 50  %.

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