Automating Australia's wine industry with compressed air

Pulford Air & Gas

Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Automating Australia's wine industry with compressed air

Air-compressor manufacturer ELGi Equipments has been helping winemakers in India increase their process quality and speed with pneumatic equipment powered by compressed air, and these successes can be applied to Australia.

Australia is the fourth-largest producer of wine in the world, and while India is relatively new to wine growing, it has recently taken big strides in wine production. Sula Wines has created a strong brand in the Indian market, operating two wineries in Karnataka and Maharashtra with a total capacity of 12 million litres, and selling over 20 varieties of wines.

Automation is taking over the wine industry, helping improve process quality, reduce waste, increase productivity, cut costs and minimise incidents of human error. Winemaking involves five major stages — harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, and ageing and bottling — and compressed air has applications in all stages.

Tom Fyfe, President of ELGi Australia, said that many vineyards have replaced hand-picking grapes with machine harvesters.

“The harvested grapes are sorted and then taken to the winery where they are de-stemmed and crushed with the help of pneumatic equipment.

“Filling machines are also powered by pneumatic valves with compressed air to lift the bottle and fill it to the desired limit. The filled bottles are then transported through a conveyor belt to another section where the bottle caps are closed through a pneumatic operation,” he explained.

In the case of sparkling wines, compressed air is used to wrap the foil cover over the cap of the bottle. The last process involves labelling the bottle in which compressed air is used to stick the labels onto the bottles.

Fyfe explained that Sula in India makes use of either fully or semi-automated pressing and crushing and bottling processes.

“Compressed air helps Sula maintain the quality and speed of production to meet the demands of a growing business,” he said. “Sula has been using ELGi screw compressors for the past 15 years for these operations, and the team says that the quality is critical to their operations.”

If there is any remnant of oil in the compressed air, it will affect the quality of the product; if there is any moisture in the compressed air, the blower used for labelling will not work efficiently.

“The ELGi screw compressors at the Sula wineries have extremely low oil carryover, and are fitted with oil filters to ensure there is no oil particles in the compressed air line,” Fyfe said.

According to ELGi, the customer representative from Sula said ELGi compressors have helped the company “speed up production, minimise waste and ensure we get the same quality product in every batch of wine we produce at the winery”.

Fyfe said Australia reportedly exports “approximately 750 million litres a year to the international export market with only about 40% of production consumed domestically. To keep up with the demand, processes must be automated and what better way to ensure accuracy and speed than with air?”

The company’s recent acquisition of Australia’s FR Pulford & Son, along with its wholly owned subsidiary Advanced Air Compressors, means it is well positioned to service the Australian market. Fyfe concluded: “Our compressed air and on-site nitrogen generation is well known in Australia.”

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