Company: Bühler Group

Technology Snapshot: Bühler has announced that the first rollout for integrated rice mills is entering the final stages. The initial setup connecting sorter, whitener, and sensors is set to change rice milling practices. Artificial intelligence and machine learning technology transform stand-alone technologies into one smart integrated system, reducing waste, saving energy, and consistently providing the best product quality. The results have tangible impact on the entire value chain.

“Our digitally integrated system is the world’s first. Our solution-focused thinking connects the entire mill. The monetary benefits for our customers are tangible, while reduction in waste and energy consumption demonstrate our commitment to sustainable solutions,” says Johannes Wick, CEO grains & food at Bühler. Swiss rice miller Riseria Taverne SA is among the first visionary operators to successfully implement the system.

The rice processing industry faces many challenges: The growing global population and the rise of the middle class is driving up demand from consumers around the world who are increasingly quality conscious. At the same time, rice processors must manage huge variations in input with ever fewer skilled operators. Meanwhile, wider society is looking to all industries to become more sustainable. Bühler is meeting these challenges head on by connecting the optical sorter, whitener, and sensors into an integrated system powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. “It’s this potent combination that lifts our capabilities to entirely new levels, equipping millers with the tools to operate even more efficiently and meet their customers’ ever-growing demand for consistent quality,” says Johannes Wick. “This isn’t a gradual improvement on already excellent performance but a real gamechanger. It represents a major leap towards the totally connected milling operation.”  

Bühler has been a pioneer in whitening technology for more than three decades, introducing the first vertical split-stone arrangement to the market. The new Automatic Whitener DRWC improves the process further by providing the best whitening performance through self-adapting whitening pressure. It also includes an overload protection mechanism and convenient recipe setting options that can be accessed via a touchscreen to provide maximum user-friendliness and efficiency. The shaftless design allows air to pass freely around rice kernels resulting in cooler and cleaner kernels, free from the bran. The emery wheel can be replaced easily, and the wear parts are highly durable.  

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 real time using complex machine learning algorithms. This not only standardizes the process, minimizing error and increasing consistency and reliability, but also reduces reliance on labor.  

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. Where millers were once left to take corrective action after an incident occurred, they can now prevent costly reprocessing steps and proactively manage the entire process. With these advances, the miller can optimize operating costs, quality and yield, all of which have a direct impact on the profit of the mill. The product can be marketed with confidence along the entire value chain from miller, trader, and retailer to the end consumer at the optimal price point. Consumers are assured they are buying the best quality available.  

The system is currently being tested at Riseria Taverne SA, the largest rice mill in Switzerland. “The new setup consisting of digitally connected optical sorters, a whitener and RiceLinePro sensors has given us visibility across the entire process. First results indicate significant cost savings, reduction in energy consumption and increased quality output,” says Stefania Dolci, Head of Quality Assurance at Riseria Taverne SA.  

For more information about Bühler partnerships and product launches, visit the Bühler Virtual World 2021 website.