UK Offers Grant for Intelligent Dough Mixing Project

RedBlack Software and Campden BRI have won a GBP68k grant from the UK’s government funding agency Innovate UK to find out whether artificial intelligence (AI) can improve bread dough mixing in order to reduce bakery waste.

The feasibility study brings together data technologists at RedBlack Software, creator of the market-leading Cybake bakery management application, and food scientists at Campden BRI, the UK’s most prominent food and drink industry research association.

Approximately 80% of the UK’s bread is made with automated systems. An automated bread line typically operates with two mixers feeding the line with dough at production rates of 8-10,000kg/h. Each mixer (e.g. 400kg capacity) operates at 11-13 mixes/h and is controlled to time or energy. Poor quality dough has major impacts on each downstream processing stage, causing equipment failure and generating waste dough.

RedBlack and Campden BRI’s project will directly address this issue, helping to reduce waste and maintain high bread quality by developing a system that uses deep learning technology to control dough mixer settings.

Campden BRI will carry out dough mixing and baking experiments to generate data for the new AI software. RedBlack will combine objective scientific instrument data with subjective data from human experts, pulling and transforming all this disparate information through data pipelines into a cloud-based data factory.

This data store will form the foundation for predictive models which will seek patterns in the data in order to make recommendations on mixer settings. Analysts will compare and contrast several different deep learning technologies to identify which one is best able to find patterns and make predictions for the new application.

The control of dough mixing using artificial intelligence has the potential to be the first significant improvement opportunity in bakery efficiency in over 20 years. No major developments in mixer technology have been widely adopted by the UK bakery sector since pressure-vacuum mixing in 1995 (a Baker-Perkins patent) and, before that, high shear dough mixing invented in 1961 by the Flour Milling and Baking Research Association (FMBRA – which became part of Campden BRI), according to a press release by Campden BRI.

Gary Tucker, manager of Campden BRI’s baking and cereal processing department, said: “By developing new approaches to improve dough mixing consistency, our project is intended to support government and industry efforts to reduce food waste, both in manufacturing and in the home.

“WRAP suggests GBP205m as the value for waste from industrial bakeries. If successful, the technology that results from our intelligent dough mixer project could significantly reduce this figure, maybe by 50% depending on market penetration. It may prove that higher levels of automation will reduce waste levels.”

Jane Tyler, managing director of RedBlack Software, added: “Getting dough mixes right is critical to operational success but difficult to achieve. Even slightly differing flour qualities have a big effect on the end product quality. Because of this, bakers throw away considerable amounts of dough before it is ever baked. Our intelligent dough mixer project aims to minimize this – it could save commercial bakers significant amounts of time, costs and materials.

Photo caption: RedBlack Software managing director Jane Tyler and Gary Tucker, manager of Campden BRI’s Baking and Cereal Processing Department 

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