Photo: Marion Jørgensen

Industry must reduce water consumption

Water supply Climate adaptation Food production

The food industry is a major water consumer. Now, a partnership is developing solutions that can help reduce the sector’s consumption of clean drinking water by as much as 30 per cent.

Danish Crown is venturing into unknown territory. Food producers are looking to introduce new methods to minimize water consumption. With an annual clean water consumption of 3.5 million cubic metres used in production, Danish Crown stands to reap huge benefits if it can reduce its consumption. The company is now investigating whether water recycling can provide a solution.

“Our top priority is to ensure that these new initiatives do not impact food safety. Water recycling must be targeted at well-defined production tasks that do not impact our finished products,” says Charlotte Thy, Environmental Manager at Danish Crown.

As an example, she cites the washing down of animal transports as a possible application for recycled water. When an animal transport has been emptied of pigs for slaughter, the pig transport truck has to be washed and disinfected. This task does not require drinking quality water. However, there are many unknowns in the equation before water recycling can be implemented, says Charlotte Thy.

"The partnership is very much about bringing together the parties’ knowledge and technologies, and bringing them into play out in the companies. "
Professor Hans-Jørgen Albrechtsen, DTU Environment

“We’re not clear about which technology to use if we start recirculating water from one area of production in order to exploit it somewhere else. We don’t know how to monitor the process and we don’t know whether water recycling will end up being less sustainable due to possibly higher energy consumption,” she explains.

These are some of the issues that need to be clarified by a large so-called social partnership—INNO+VIP (Water-efficient Industrial Production)—which brings together 14 businesses and five knowledge environments, including DTU. The ambition is to reduce water consumption by 15 to 30 per cent in the food industry by 2020.

Three DTU departments are participating in the partnership: DTU Food, DTU Chemical Engineering, and DTU Environment. Professor Hans-Jørgen Albrechtsen, DTU Environment, explains that technologies for cleaning, recirculating and monitoring water, among other things, already exist to a certain extent, but must be incorporated into new solutions:

“The partnership is very much about bringing together the parties’ knowledge and technologies, and bringing them into play out in the companies. Among other things, DTU can help with system analyses, life cycle calculations, and water quality assessments so that we can get an overview of where the companies can reuse water without impacting the environment or food quality.”

Article from DYNAMO no. 42, DTU’s quarterly magazine in Danish. 

Development project paved the way for INNO+VIP

In 2010, DTU initiated a sector development project which in 2013 resulted in the report 'Cleaning in slaughterhouses and dairies in Denmark: Development of future effective, resource-saving technologies’.  This work identified research and technology development requirements within this area and led to the establishment of a ‘partnership on water-efficient dairies’ (Partnerskab om vandeffektive mejerier) and subsequently to INNO+VIP. 


The total budget is DKK 98 million, where Innovation Fund Denmark has invested DKK 50 million. The five-year project gets underway in 2015.  


The partners are:

  • DTU (DTU Food, DTU Chemical Engineering, and DTU Environment)
  • DHI
  • Grundfos A/S
  • Danish Crown A/S
  • Alfa Laval A/S
  • UltraAqua A/S
  • Siemens A/S
  • Arla Foods a.m.b.a.
  • Carlsberg Danmark A/S
  • TripleNine A/S
  • The Danish Agriculture & Food Council
  • Danish Technological Institute
  • University of Copenhagen
  • Copenhagen Business School
  • DSS A/S
  • Aquaporin A/S
  • Liqtech International A/S
  • Cabinplant A/S
  • HK Scan A/S