BERKEL-ENSCHOT, NETHERLANDS — VC Petfoods, a pet food and treat manufacturer based in Föhren, Germany, recently partnered with Lan Handling Technologies and Steriflow to install fully automated retorts to help the manufacturer meet growing demand for its wet pet food products.

Steriflow supplied five static retorts to VC Petfoods, which featured a smart interface, MPI Expert, integrated with Lan Handling’s automated retort handling system. The system is designed to offer continuous flow flexibility.

The retorts (or autoclaves) feature a preheating phase performed during loading/unloading, and modulating valves to optimize the regulation of pressure and temperature inside the retorts. Flow rate is controlled by a flowmeter and the whole process is monitored by MPI Expert.

Steriflow also equipped the solution with an energy management system, including water recovery tanks, to save energy and water and increase productivity.

Lan Handling’s retort handing system allows VC Petfoods to run different can sizes on a single line. Changes to the pattern former for various can sizes can be made within a minute, according to the company.

The handling system also features a sliding system for loading, in case VC Petfoods transitions to non-magnetic cans down the road.

VC Petfoods has the facility space to install additional Steriflow retorts in the future, which can be facilitated by expanding shuttle rails and cables on Lan Handling’s end.

The efficiency achieved through Steriflow and Lan Handling’s retort systems helps to reduce the loss of residual heat during the loading process. The can handling system by Lan Handling can load/unload 700 products per minute, and also features a de-watering process upon unloading, which benefits downstream processes for labeling and packaging.

The can handling system also features a middle conveyor to eliminate potential bottlenecks during the loading and unloading processes. This provides a “buffer section” to allow continuous product flow to continue in the case of a temporary batch issue.

There is also a designated “quarantine zone,” where suspicious products (i.e. “products that may not be properly sterilized”) can be stored and addressed without interrupting the continuous product flow.

Find more articles about the latest pet food processing technologies on our Equipment page.