Automated Quality Control of sugar beets in the Anklam sugar factory
The cultivation of sugar beets has a great tradition in Europe. The sugar factory in Anklam, north-east Germany, has become unique in the region and has established a future-proof technology concept during recent years.
This already begins with the quality control of incoming raw materials: The quality of the delivered sugar beets destined for the production process is determined by a combination of an automated sample preparation system from Venema and the Betalyser laboratory system from Anton Paar. Additionally, the system guarantees that the 385 sugar beet farmers are paid according to the quality of their beets.
There has been great activity at the Anklam sugar factory as early as mid-September this year because thanks to the weather the sugar beet harvest of 2016 started early and has produced particularly sugary beets. This year’s yield of 17 to 18 percent is above average. Sugar has been produced in Anklam for more than 130 years and little has changed in all this time except for the technology, which has been constantly evolving.
To ensure a high sugar quality the factory in Anklam relies on an automated system that combines the computer-controlled laboratory system “Betalyser” by Anton Paar with an automated sample preparation system by Venema. This system has been in use since 2010. Anton Paar’s MCP 300 Sucromat saccharimeter is used for control measurements. This guarantees that only high-grade beets are sent to the production line and farmers are paid based on the sugar content of the delivered crop.
“During the beet campaign roughly 600 beet trucks arrive here every day,” explains Karin Gottschalk, laboratory manager and quality and environmental representative of the Anklam sugar factory. “In the past every single delivery was sampled. Nowadays, when there are several deliveries from one farmer, we sample the first 15 loads and then take random samples of selected vehicles.”
In total the factory in Anklam processes around 1.35 million tons of beets per year. Unlike other sugar factories, the company is run by the beet farmers but is a purely industrial business. Therefore, the collaboration with the local association of growers is very close and the measurement of the sugar content of delivered beets plays an important role. “The association of growers evaluates whether everything is done within the rules of the joint agreement,” reports Gottschalk. “For example, how much water is used during sample preparation because of course the farmers don’t want to make a loss.”
Easy and accurate measurement, reliable service
A sample of 40 kilograms of beets is taken out of each sampled vehicle. The beets are weighed, washed and mashed. The resulting filtrate is automatically introduced into the Betalyser laboratory system which Anton Paar developed specially for sugar analysis. In Betalyser the sugar content, potassium, sodium, and α-amino-nitrogen are measured – all crucial parameters for the quality of a sugar beet. The MCP 300 Sucromat from Anton Paar is used to check the measurements of the laboratory instruments.
During the beet campaign, which is the harvest season from September to January, the laboratory system for the quality control of raw materials runs 24 hours a day. Employees work in three-shift operation. “We are a production plant, not a research laboratory,” emphasizes Gottschalk. “The Betalyser is easy to handle and delivers accurate results. Of course they are our top priority. We only have to exchange the hoses each week because we process organic samples.” Additionally, the company chose to have a service agreement: “It is always the same service engineer who conducts the maintenance at our site and this is a long-term partnership that we greatly appreciate,” adds Gottschalk.
A Success Story
The Anklam sugar factory was founded in 1883; today it exclusively produces industrial sugar. Since 2009 the factory has been part of the Dutch “Suiker Unie” group that also produces conventional household sugar at other plants. The Suiker Unie factories are among the most modern of their kind worldwide. Just recently, Anklam also invested in its future: A third extraction tower for around 18 million Euros will secure the future of the 385 sugar beet farmers in the region as Anklam is the last remaining sugar factory in north-eastern Germany.
Due to the regular and exact measurements a good partnership has been established with the association of growers, which regularly monitors the raw material analysis in the factory. The accurate determination of sugar content allows the quality-based payment of beet deliveries. Additional glucose measurement also prevents – especially during times of frost – beets of inferior quality from getting into the production line and diminishing the proceeds.
However, Anklam not only produces sugar but also bioethanol and biomethane. About one third of the beet pulp, all of the small beet chips, and half of the vinasse – the thickened and fermented molasses – which are the byproducts of the production are processed for this purpose. In this way, Anklam not only has a future-proof system for quality control, but is also well-equipped for sustainability.
Computer-controlled laboratory system: Betalyser
Measures the content of sucrose (sugar), potassium, sodium, and α-amino-nitrogen, optionally also glucose
Calculates adjusted sugar content, sugar yield, molasses, alkalinity
Suitable for lead-clarified or aluminum-clarified samples
Sugar factories can use the Betalyser and a bonus system in their payment analysis to improve the quality of the delivered sugar beets and therefore increase their economic turnover within a few years
Anklam Sugar Factory
Acreage: 19,300 ha
Sugar content: 18 %
Sugar yield: 13 t/ha
Quantity of beets: 1.35 million t
Certificates: ISO 14001, ISO 22000/FSSC, ISO 26000, ISO 50001, QS/GMP+EEG, BiokraftNachV, 36. BImSchV