Billions of gallons of water are used every year in poultry processing plants across the country. Water is used in just about every processing step, not to mention sanitation and maintenance tasks. Natural resource sustainability is a top priority of the poultry industry, and processors continue to look for ways to conserve, reuse, or recycle water.
Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) believe computer modeling tools may help by simulating plant water usage, giving processors a new tool to help pinpoint areas for water savings.
“Unfortunately, no model currently exists to help plant managers evaluate their water use and conservation practices. We are seeking to fill this gap,” says Olga Kemenova, GTRI research engineer and project director.
Kemenova and fellow researchers in GTRI’s Agricultural Technology Research Program (ATRP) began by reviewing current poultry industry water management practices. Special attention was given to practices related to pathogen contamination reduction and wastewater content. The team used the information gained to design and populate a computer model dubbed, “Poultry System Simulation Model,” or PRYSSM for short.
PRYSSM includes multiple poultry process models. “It is a system-of-systems model for poultry processing,” explains Alex Samoylov, GTRI research scientist and project co-director. The current model includes a water model and wastewater model that work together seamlessly. And the team plans to expand it to include an energy use model and a labor requirements model as well.
The water model simulates general water consumption processes such as stunning, scalding, plucking, chilling, and general sewer discharge. The wastewater model depicts wastewater flow and treatment of water flowing through multiple cleaning stages. The team also developed a model for higher fidelity simulation of the poultry chilling process. This model keeps track of the temperature history of birds currently in the chiller and the water temperature of the chiller at various locations over time.
“Our goal is to have a model that fully describes any given poultry production facility, so plant personnel can use it to see the effects proposed changes in one process may or may not have on the entire system,” says Kemenova.
By having an evaluation tool at their disposal, plant managers could make water quality improvements or reduce water usage. In addition, because of the wide variation that can exist from one plant to another, the model is fully customizable. It can be easily adjusted to fit an instance of a particular poultry production scheme, and should be of benefit for planning purposes. For example, whenever any change is planned for a current process such as adding a new production lane or replacing old equipment, the model can be used to evaluate the impact of the change on water usage and wastewater content.
Where wastewater processes are of concern, the model can be used to estimate what components of the wastewater system will be needed to achieve a desired level of water decontamination. Plant managers can also use the model to run a cost-benefit analysis of wastewater treatment options.
The team continues to refine PRYSSM with the addition of degrees of freedom. Kemenova says the degrees of freedom will be varied to evaluate strategies intended to reduce water consumption without sacrificing quality, safety, or yield.