Halle (Westphalia) / Steinfeld-Mühlen, 29 January 2019 – Wellmann Engineering has implemented a plant for the production of starter cultures at MicroTec GmbH in Steinfeld: Special microorganisms are multiplied here in pure culture under hygiene standards that correspond to pharmaceutical conditions. These are then used in the food industry: through fermentation, they improve the flavour, the maturing process and the shelf life of meat products. Since starter cultures have a wide range of applications, the technology has growth potential.
“Fermentation by microorganisms is basically a very traditional method,” says managing director Gerhard Wellmann, “starter cultures are also needed to produce sauerkraut, kefir and yoghurt.” The system at MicroTec GmbH makes the natural process of multiplication precisely controllable, so that customers from the food industry can be continuously supplied with starter cultures in reproducible quantity and quality.
Numerous parameters can be precisely controlled
The production of a pure culture requires an extremely hygienic plant design in order to exclude the propagation of foreign cultures. This is because every type of micro-organism finds ideal growth conditions within the plant. “By precisely controlling a large number of different parameters such as pH value, oxygen and nitrogen supply, glucose content and temperature, we create optimal process conditions,” says Gerhard Wellmann. A high degree of automation and virtual networking ensures that the multiplication process, once set in motion, is largely self-sufficient. In order to meet the high hygiene requirements and to be able to work efficiently at the same time, the plant was equipped by Wellmann Engineering with so-called CIP and SIP devices. CIP stands for “Cleaning in Place” and SIP for “Sterilising in Place”. This means that all cleaning and sterilisation processes run fully automatically without any disassembly work.
Gerhard Wellmann sees market potential for the technology far beyond the meat industry. After all, 35 per cent of all food is fermented, and silage additives for agriculture also work with starter cultures. “As general contractor for plant construction at MicroTec and in a large number of pharmaceutical projects, we have shown that we are masters of cleanroom technology,” says Wellmann.