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Salad Grower Is Living Proof Of CENFRA’s Expertise

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Europe’s leading centre of excellence for providing automation and robotic knowledge to the UK food and beverage manufacturing sector, CenFRA Ltd, has played an integral role in the recent expansion of an award winning fresh gourmet salad grower.

Like many food manufacturers, Living Salads, was hesitant about committing to new technology on the factory floor and approached CenFRA for its unbiased, specialist guidance to ensure that the chosen system was the best for the job.

Twelve months on from the initial enquiry, Living Salads is reaping the benefits of improved product quality and competitiveness, enjoying a 50 percent increase in production units with a matched decrease in labour costs.

With so many available options, CenFRA whittled it down to 14 opportunities for Living Salads to consider including simultaneous tray filing and harvesting, tray dispensing, integrating a seeder unit with a tray filler and various automated packing and transport systems.

All of the options presented by CenFRA were offered as solutions to help improve the competitiveness of Living Salads. CenFRA was able to highlight areas of the business where an automation solution could help to reduce risk, cost and improve productivity and quality.

CenFRA also brought funding opportunities to the attention of Living Salads, which are available through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE). The RDPE is managed by Yorkshire Forward and jointly funded by Defra and the European Union and has 63m to invest in rural businesses over a six year period.

Living Salads accessed a 60,000 grant (40% of eligible costs) through the Rural Enterprise Investment Programme, which offers grants starting from 25,000 and is available to rural businesses wanting to grow and become more productive.

The grant was used to install the new packing equipment at Living Salads and the company has now increased the speed and packing efficiency of the ‘living salad’ trays, and has reduced manual handling whilst adding value to the product.

Introducing automation and robotic systems at Living Salads has not cost people jobs, like many in the industry think, but instead has allowed the company to produce more products, expand the business and ultimately create more jobs.

Founder of Living Salads Andrew Johnson commented: “We engaged with CenFRA on a recommendation from Yorkshire Forward, which advised us that CenFRA would be able to confirm that we were investing our money in the right place and that we had chosen the right functions to deliver the greatest benefits.

“CenFRA is an impartial, authoritative and crucial link between food manufacturers and automation suppliers and Living Salads was able to trust CenFRA’s recommendations because of its expertise and impressive market knowledge.

“Living Salads is now confident that investing in automation and robotics can help maintain profit margins through issuing better controlled costs and improved quality and product reliability. I believe that CenFRA is vital in the food industry’s quest to stay competitive and I am sure we will be turning to them again in the future.”

CenFRA is funded principally by Yorkshire Forward but with additional support from Northern Way and the Doncaster-based centre is in partnership with a number of the country’s leading independent robotic and automation engineering centres of expertise.

CenFRA Ltd (Centre for Food Robotics and Automation) mission is “To support the future sustainability of food and drink manufacturing in the UK by providing leadership, guidance and assistance in the development and application of automation”.

Funded principally by Yorkshire Forward but with additional support from Northern Way (an amalgamation of the three Northern-based Regional Development Agencies) the Centre is in partnership with a consortium of the country’s leading independent robotic and automation facilities.

Driven by food industry professionals CenFRA is working towards becoming the beacon organisation for all robotic and automation activities related to the UK food and beverage manufacturing industry including education, consultancy and research and development.

Since its formal launch in 2007, CenFRA has established itself as Europe’s leading centre of excellence, providing valued knowledge and services to the food and drink industry.

The CenFRA organisation is Europe’s first Centre for Food Robotics and Automation and is located in Crompton Business Park at Doncaster. It is supported by a dedicated team of professional engineers, researchers and technologists drawn from a wide variety of academic and specialist engineering centres. All are highly experienced in the field of mechanised food assembly and automation technology.

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