Bühler AG (Uzwil, Switzerland; www.buhlergroup.com) is making a major step towards digitally connected rice mills of the future. The first rollout for integrated rice mills is entering the final stages, with the initial setup using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology to connect the sorter, whitener and sensors to transform stand-alone technologies into one smart integrated system that reduces waste, saves energy and consistently provides the best product quality. "Our digitally integrated system is the world's first," says Johannes Wick, CEO Grains & Food at Bühler. The system is currently being tested at Riseria Taverne SA (Torricella-Taverne, Switzerland).
Bühler has defined the three quality parameters essential to the rice market: shine, smoothness and whiteness. These, together with the percentage of broken rice, determine the quality and therefore the price that can be achieved with the final product. The RiceLinePro DROA sensor continuously assesses and keeps track of these characteristics in realtime using complex ML algorithms. This not only standardizes the process, minimizing error and increasing consistency and reliability, but also reduces reliance on labor.
Bühler's new DS-C Optical Sorter is said to be one of the most advanced pieces of equipment in the entire processing line. It provides realtime product-quality alerts that help to optimize the rice yield, as well as adapt downstream processing technology settings. For a typical optical sorter, ejection spikes often result in the loss of good product. Bühler's integrated digital solutions detect these spikes as they happen. Where there is very little contamination, there may be no need to re-sort the product and it can go straight to packing. At an average throughput of 3,500 kg/h and 25 spikes/d, up to 32,000 kg of good product could be lost over a month if the errors are not detected and rectified. The monthly savings from increased visibility could be as high as $15,000.
The digitally connected technology provides mill operators with the insights they need to correctly adjust solution settings. Over time, the intelligent system is capable of adjusting autonomously.