Robotic handling of food during manufacturing continues to become more sophisticated. Next-generation robots will work in unison with humans to improve efficiencies.
CHICAGO — The global food industry will be on display at Anuga FoodTec, a leading international trade show for the food and beverage industry that will run March 20 to 23, 2018, at Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany. Nearly 1,700 suppliers from more than 50 countries will present their new products for the production and packaging of all types of food and beverage. The comprehensive range of exhibits will be accompanied by a multi-faceted technical program, including workshops, conferences and guided tours.

“Traditionally process technology has been the most represented section at the trade fair,” said Katharina Hamma, chief operating officer, Koelnmesse GmbH. “This year there is greater emphasis on food safety and quality management, as well as food ingredients. Visitors experience the entire production cycle, from how basic ingredients are processed and how a product is made, all the way to the primary and secondary packing of the finished product. Nothing less than the entire production chain is depicted at the trade fair.”

The theme of this year’s exhibition and technical program — resource efficiency — will be showcased through topics such as optimizing production processes, reducing energy and water consumption, and minimizing food loss through ingredient, process and package technology. The technical program is organized by Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft (DLG), the German agricultural society.

“The growing demand for commodities and energy sources worldwide and the increasing urbanization are compelling us to review our present behavior and economic activity,” said Simone Schiller, managing director-competence center food at DLG. “Careful, and at the same time efficient management of natural resources is the key competence of sustainable societies, societies that are fit for the future. The exhibitors this year will be presenting a range of solutions showing how competitiveness can be strengthened and how the use of energy and water as well as food losses during production can be reduced.”

Complementing this theme is next-generation robotics technology, which will be demonstrated through every step of the manufacturing chain, from incoming raw materials to outgoing finished product.

Single-serve packaging and convenience features are trending in the marketplace. Anuga FoodTec suppliers will showcase recent innovations that emphasize recyclability, light-weight materials and sustainable sourcing.
“The main areas of robot applications are currently still the heavy palletizing work and tasks in the field of packaging and re-packaging,” Schiller said. “However enormous developments in the fields of hygienic design, electronic image capture and analysis, and gripper technology are making it possible to use robots increasingly for ever more difficult tasks in direct contact with foods.”

The most sophisticated robotics, many of which are still in their infancy, come equipped with collaborating arms, more sensitive sensors and cutting-edge safety technology. The new autonomous lightweight robots, known as ‘cobots,’ are designed to work in unison with humans in the food and beverage manufacturing operations of the near future.

The global stock of industry robots is expected to increase from around 1.8 million pieces in 2016 to more than 3 million by 2020, according to the International Federation of Robotics. Suppliers will demonstrate efficiency opportunities when humans and machines work together, which is known as the human-robot collaboration movement. For robots to interact with humans autonomously they need active decision making that takes human partners into account. Though the industry may not be at that point yet, researchers are making strides and their advancements will be articulated at Anuga FoodTec.

Anuga FoodTec will take place March 20 to 23, 2018. Nearly 1,700 suppliers from more than 50 countries will present technologies for the entire food production chain.
Suppliers will showcase how new sophisticated, lightweight agile robots may relieve their human colleagues by carrying out monotonous and ergonomically unfavorable tasks, with no mistakes allowed to be made. Typical fields of application are pick-and-place applications, the handling between different production steps or follow-the-line applications, where the robot has to precisely carry out a predefined path of motion, for example when cutting and portioning meat or decorating cakes. The challenge for food producers lies in the optimal integration of the mechanical assistants into the production processes.

In addition to the theme of resource efficiency, there will be an expert forum on topics of current interest to the food industry under the heading “Topics, trends, technologies — what’s moving today’s food industry?” The forum will offer presentations and panel discussions on topics of current interest, including convenience, food authenticity, modified atmosphere packaging, genome editing, high pressure processing and more. A separate forum will be dedicated to food ingredients and product development and will address the topics of clean labeling, personalized nutrition, texture design, enzymes in food production and functional foods.

For more information on Anuga FoodTec 2018, visit