Robot firm’s double boost

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Food industry automation expert CenFRA has become an independent business and received a boost from the European Regional Development Fund.

Doncaster-based CenFRA – the initials stand for the Centre for Food Robotics and Automation – was set up four years ago by regional development agency Yorkshire Forward as a not for profit business with the job of helping food and beverage manufacturers to improve their competitiveness through automation.

CenFRA has also developed an e-learning course covering automation in the sector, in close collaboration with the National Skills Academy

With Yorkshire Forward being wound down by the government, control of CenFRA has passed to a board of directors made up of senior executives from the food and drink sector who have demonstrated their faith in CenFRA’s future by investing in the organisation.

CenFRA says its new found status as a company means more firms will be able to take advantage of its independent advice and automation expertise, opening up significant new opportunities for the group.

Incorporation means the company will be able to work in partnership with outside corporate and individual investors to grow its business further, and open up opportunities in new geographic markets and other connected industries.

Independence coincides with CenFRA winning outline approval to manage a £2.1 million programme, backed by the European Regional Development Fund.

The programme aims to help SMEs in the Yorkshire and Humber food and drink sector to consider investment in automation and robotic systems.

CenFRA chairman, Soeren Vonsild, believes the changes will enable the organisation to go from strength to strength.

“Our new commercial focus allows us the flexibility to reach out to an international audience which is very exciting for us,” said Mr Vonsild, head of group engineering at Arla Foods UK.

“I believe that it is now more important than ever for businesses to understand the long term benefits of investing in new automation and robotic technologies.

“The entire UK food industry is having to continually explore efficiencies, and manufacturers must invest in removing costs if they are to stay ahead of competitors.

“A large number of food sectors, including fresh produce, bakeries, ready meal producers, meat packers and breweries, have already benefited from CenFRA’s expertise and its directors are confident that even more will now have that opportunity.”