Valorial is an agri-food competitiveness cluster in the Grand Ouest, located in the heart of Europe’s largest agri-food basin. Valorial has 360 members taken from the three regions of Bretagne, Pays de la Loire and Normandie. The cluster aims to bring companies, technology transfer centres, research cells and higher education institutions to work together on collaborative innovation projects. Created in 2006, Valorial has already supported more than 450 projects, of which more than 200 are now on the market.
Agri-factory of the future
As part of the “Agri-Food Factory of the Future” collective platform showcased at the CFIA for the past 8 years, Valorial has participated in the development of an intelligent and agile packaging line, a project led by Bretagne Développement Innovation, which meets the requirements of the agri-food factory of the future.
This complete line incorporates the latest technology bricks developed by thirteen industrialists in the sector, including seven in Bretagne. Product optical inspection modules are built into the start of the line. Robots regularly sample trays to verify product compliance. Manufacturing changes only take a few minutes thanks to artificial intelligence and digital technology used to pre-programme them. The line also features a real-time interconnection solution that gathers information from all OEM in the line regardless of their computer protocol for better control. Operators are equipped with exoskeletons to help them lift heavy loads and a combination of seventeen connected sensors to measure the ergonomics of the workstation and anticipate the possible risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
Given the drop in the CAP budget and direct aid to producers for R&D, Valorial has in particular the task of supporting companies in this transition and help them find European financing. To this end, the cluster creates and strengthens cooperation with its counterparts in Europe.
Valorial has already developed a joint project with five European clusters for research and development cooperation. The project helps it to understand better the specific features of each market in order to adapt products to local consumers as well as target the players in these markets better. For example, Germany and Italy are full of small agri-food OEM that Valorial can introduce to its members and thus help them find new outlets, with support for each project through financing from the European Commission.
To bring more weight at European scale, Valorial has recently allied itself with Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation, based in Toulouse and covering Nouvelle Aquitaine and Occitanie. Together, the two clusters cover the whole of the West of France, accounting for 40% of French agriculture and agri-food, as well as the entire agricultural and agri-food chain. Several areas of innovation have been identified: water, climate and soil, sustainable crop and livestock production, value of biomass, food offer to eat better and finally innovative food uses and services.
Valorial is also working on projects outside Europe, notably with Canada, the United States and China, on topics such as digital technology and nutrition-health. A philosophy common to all these lines of research: “Produce well, to eat well. Let us hope for smarter food, to create added value”.