By raising our sights in engineering terms, and quite literally, we have created a new design for Marlow Foods that performs the food production process in a vertical factory. The result is a smaller footprint that leaves room at the site for expansion and increased supplies of Quorn. The new design also keeps the whole process on one site, cutting transport costs and emissions.
We have saved space at the Marlow Foods’ site so that new facilities can be added later for extra production of the protein which is now one of the fastest growing popular foods in the UK.
At the same time, we have designed and built – in collaboration with other specialists – a high-specification water treatment plant to remove waste and chemicals like phosphorous and nitrogen produced in the Quorn fermentation process.
Low fat, meat free
We’ve been working for a decade with Marlow Foods, the sole producer of Quorn products. Quorn is a sustainable, low-fat protein. The carbon footprint of Quorn mince for instance is 90% lower than that of beef. It is also the first global meat alternative to achieve third-party certification of its carbon footprint figures.
Quorn products have experienced substantial growth in recent years with sales increasing globally by 16% in 2017. The new Belasis production facility will enable Marlow Foods to increase the supply of Quorn across the UK, Europe and North America to meet demand.
The new three-storey factory at the County Durham site is a departure from the usual single-storey, linear production process. The pipework was definitely more complex but we found we could use the elevation of a multiple-storey structure and take advantage of gravity to cut future process energy costs.
Bespoke equipment had been sourced from different suppliers and had to be integrated into a successful end-to-end process. Our engineers accompanied the client on visits to suppliers to see how different items would affect the building’s services. This was time well spent as it helped streamline the design process, ensuring each piece of equipment was factored in individually along with its electricity and water supply requirements, and that nothing was overlooked.
Working with the users
Co-operation between our team, client, engineers, contractors, suppliers and scientists was a constant positive. Marlow Foods’ personnel shared their knowledge of the production process which made it easier for us to cater for the specialist equipment and the facility’s staff. Together, we could make sure that the layout and design would help them do their jobs more efficiently.
For example, all the equipment has to be carefully cleaned and because the Quorn production process is unique, standard cleaning regimes aren’t always suitable. With input from the Marlow Foods’ staff, we were able to automate some processes and configure the layout to make cleaning easier, more efficient and safer.
When it came to wastewater treatment we opted for a process known as Bardenpho which requires multiple tanks, the largest of which is 7.5m tall. To make sure this was absolutely the right process our client constructed a small-scale test rig on site.
We then modelled the design for the full-scale plan in 3D so the client could walk around it ‘virtually’. This helped the team to find the ideal layout for the pipework and to balance efficient use of a small site footprint with ease of access for operation and maintenance.
The construction team’s safety performance on the build was excellent. With around 150 people constructing a large, complex building consisting of lots of different rooms, the atmosphere of collaboration was very positive. As a result, everyone was clear about what was expected, and everyone stayed safe.
We finalised the building on time and production is due to start this autumn.
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