Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Computer-aided food processes for control engineering (Food Processing)

Project acronym: CAFÉ

Title of project: Computer-aided food processes for control engineering

Research area: Food Processing

Contract No: 212754

EU contribution: €5 340 452

Start date: June 2008

Duration: 57 months

Status: finalised

The objective of the CAFÉ project is to provide new and smarter ways (paradigms) of controlling food processing to improve quality and safety as well as costs and environmental impacts. To do this the project is investigating four typical processes in the areas of bioconversion, separation, preservation and structuring. The novelty of the project lies in combining PAT (Process Analytical Technology) and process sensor devices with process modelling and simulation.

In food processing, although the essential physical, biochemical and microbiological principles are reasonably well understood, foods are complex systems with properties that – because they are connected with quality and safety – are usually very difficult to measure, estimate or even represent through reliable models. Such properties may include physico-chemical parameters related to quality such as nutrient content, texture, colour or rheology; or microbiological characteristics usually connected to food safety.

The four case studies CAFÉ is addressing are: wine making (bioconversion), microfiltration of food beverages (separation), freeze-drying of lactic acid bacteria (preservation), and ice cream crystallisation (structuring).

CAFÉ involves numerous experiments and the development of sensors to allow real-time or near-real-time monitoring of food processing operations. A modular, scalable hardware network integrates several kinds of sensors and components that will maximise product quality satisfy safety requirements and minimise operation costs.

The project aims to extract as much information as possible from the process/plant in the form of precise estimations of unmeasured variables. These variables define, in particular, product quality and how the process itself changes the physical parameters of the food – which is difficult to know beforehand. The project is recording and encoding physical/deterministic models of particular processes in a reliable and usable way. It is also developing control methods to ensure uniform quality and production despite variability in raw materials and/or responses to sudden changes in demand.

The new processing techniques developed by CAFÉ could reshape the processing industry. The CAFÉ project results will help increase the technical and commercial potential of European companies in the food sector by offering efficient production strategies and smart control systems that can guarantee high and uniform product quality and reliable plant operation. This will improve the competitiveness of the European food industry on international markets and favour international exports.

For the academic partners in the project, the results will add to their international reputation as leaders in the modelling, diagnosis, monitoring and control of food processes. The results from all parts of the programme will be shared, allowing partners to strengthen and extend their individual areas of expertise. The academic element of the project will boost Europe’s world reputation as a scientific leader in the field of food research. It will also improve the links and collaboration between the European partners.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Denis Dochain,

Organisation: UCL - Université Catholique de Louvain ,