Food Pilot opens new flexible demo hall

Food Pilot, the unique pilot factory of ILVO and Flanders’ FOOD, has a new flexible space of 200 m² in the buildings in Melle. Together with the use of a few new machines, the greater capacity means that Food Pilot can further expand its services as a “living lab” for the agri-food industry, with specific attention in the new hall to process technologies for adapted and balanced food for target groups, in an energy-efficient and profitable manner.

Food Pilot was founded seven years ago by ILVO and Flanders’ FOOD, as an application and analysis centre where large and smaller companies, but also start-ups, from the agri-food industry can perfect their products and processes via production lines on a semi-industrial scale and laboratory analyses. “Food Pilot has now proved to be a great success, and is a very good example of an intense collaboration between research and industry”, said Joris Relaes, administrator-general of ILVO, at the festive opening of the new demo hall.

The fact that the Food Pilot has indeed helped many companies in recent years was confirmed by various testimonials from the sector. “As a start-up company, you have to be able to limit your risks, and the Food Pilot has been very important to me in this,” said David De Coster of De Zuivelarij (known from Berloumi), among others. “It was also an accelerated way for me to get to know appliances and gain general knowledge.

“As an innovation institution, we naturally owe it to ourselves to continuously innovate, and hence this expansion,” says Relaes. “This makes us a real “living lab”, in which our researchers, in cooperation and in consultation with companies, are constantly setting up new developments, and this in a very nice interaction with each other and with close ties with the government.

The funds for the expansion and the machines (about 800,000 euros) come from the Hermes Fund of the Agency for Innovation and Enterprise and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The new demo hall fits within the ERDF project FoodInnoTech, a collaboration between ILVO, Food Pilot and Flanders’ FOOD. This project wants to demonstrate innovative technologies and their applications aimed at balanced nutrition adapted to individual needs or target groups (such as people with chewing or swallowing problems), and it also wants to guide companies to implement these technologies.

In the new hall, existing process technologies and technologies in development will be demonstrated, companies will be supported in their product development and newer technologies will be further investigated. Some of the new machines, for example, revolve around sauce preparation techniques, with special attention being paid to adjusting the texture of the end product for people who have difficulty chewing or swallowing. With the expansion, the Food Pilot now has a surface area of 2,000 m² and more than 50 appliances for food processing on a semi-industrial scale.

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