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Project to reduce food waste and the environmental impact of the canning industry won national award

This initiative is called IFishCan, and it aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the agro-food sector in reducing waste during the food processing process, while optimising water and energy consumption. How? Using advanced digital technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) or Artificial Intelligence (AI). The work developed within the scope of this project - bringing together INESC TEC, Foodintech, AI Talentum and AZTI (Technology Center for Marine and Food Innovation) - earned Foodintech the award for "Best Startup" at the eight edition of the Portugal Digital Awards.

20th December 2023

The Pinhais & Cia cannery, in Matosinhos, was one of the test scenarios of the solutions developed in the IFishCan project, which aimed to bring Industry 4.0 technologies to SMEs in the agro-food sector, contributing to greater levels of efficiency and sustainability. The idea was to develop a solution capable of reducing food waste by 10%; energy consumption by 5% to 10%; and water consumption by 5% to 20%.

In this sense, the consortium combined sensing, Internet of Things, AI and a MES system – Manufacturing Execution System. Thanks to this combination, it was possible to reach a solution that allows, on the one hand, the real-time collection of indicators related to the use of raw materials, water and energy consumption; and, on the other hand, the processing of said information for predictive purposes, facilitating decision making.

In other words, the iFishCan solution consists of a network of low-cost sensors connected through an IoT system, which collects data in real time. It also integrates an AI mechanism connected to an MES system, which allows to predict different process indicators. The project resorted to machine learning techniques, using data related to food processing and quality parameters, as well as environmental impact indicators, to generate prescriptive and predictive information about the most critical points in the chain.

"We sought to develop a solution that was easily adaptable, scalable and with a high degree of customisation for different types of industry and products. We have implemented this technological ecosystem in the Pinhais & Cia, but we want to bring the solution to other SMEs, so that they can test advanced digital tools and reduce food waste and the environmental impact of their production operations", explained Rafael Arrais. According to the INESC TEC researcher, the ecosystem can be adapted and sized for different types of fish processing and other industries.

Foodintech, a member of the consortium promoting the IFishcan project, won the "Best Startup" award at the Portugal Digital Awards – an acknowledgement that aims to highlight the best B2B (Business to Business) startup to boost the transformation of large organisations – in late November. The startup was chosen from among 300 candidates for the work developed under the IFishcan project.

"The IFishCan project allowed us to introduce a technological ecosystem that is usually only available to large companies into a more traditional company, the Pinhais & Cia. The integrated implementation of IoT, MES and AI technologies in this project allowed us to explore the role of complex technological ecosystems at the service of SMEs", said Miguel Fernandes, Executive Director of Foodintech.

The IFishCan project was co-funded by the European Union under the EIT Digital, EIT Foods and EIT Manufacturing programmes.