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From Waste Stream to Nutritious Product


Project Summary

  • Eltra developed the control system for Agristo’s new potato flake production line in Wielsbeke, Belgium.
  • The flake line is an addition to the three existing production lines for which Eltra also provided the control systems.
  • With the flake line, Agristo transforms a waste stream into nutritious products.

Small-sized or irregularly shaped potatoes. They were the reason for fries manufacturer Agristo to instal a new production line. Even though these spuds are just as tasty and nutritious, they aren’t suitable to be cut into fries. The solution? A potato flake production line that ensures not an ounce of the potato harvest is wasted. Eltra was responsible for the line’s control system. Site manager Stef Horsten discusses the collaboration between the companies and the challenges of working in a brand-new facility.

Can you describe your role at Eltra?
“I’m a site manager and primarily work on-site with our clients. My responsibilities include work preparation, supervising the installation technicians, quality assurance, creating schedules, and ensuring we stick to them. I also handle some side tasks like arranging meals and accommodations.”

“Form a waste stream into a nutritious, profitable product”

Could you give a brief overview of this project?
“We provided the control system for a potato flake production line in Agristo’s newest facility in Wielsbeke, Belgium. This is the fourth production line we’ve set up there. The other three lines don’t produce flakes, but are used for fries, potato wedges, and other potato products. We also carried out mechanical and electrical tasks, such as laying out cable routes and installing sensors. The flake line enables the processing of by-products. Potatoes that aren’t suitable for fries are peeled, blanched, puréed, dried, and are then ground into flakes. Agristo then makes these flakes into crisps or sells them as raw material for other products. This process allows Agristo to transform a waste stream into a nutritious, profitable product.”

How did you experience this project? Did you encounter any unique situations?
“All in all, the project progressed quite smoothly. The only thing posing the occasional challenge was the new building, which had been recently constructed for this expansion. The building has a technical attic space housing the cables, pipes, valves, and controls. This makes them easily accessible and ensures the cables and pipes don’t clutter the factory floor. However, there wasn’t an elevator yet, so we had to use a boom lift to move all the equipment to the attic. Additionally, the building was not yet entirely watertight when we began. But these were minor hiccups, the project went nearly without a hitch. This was partly because I was also involved in the installation of the previous production line. So, I was already familiar with many of the machines, the client, and the location. I knew where everything was, who the right contacts were, and where to look in case of issues.”

What characterizes Agristo as a client?
“For Agristo, it’s crucial that everything is built accurately, with great care, and hygienically. As a result, plans often change during a project. We work from a Process and Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID): a schematic representation of all process components, such as pipes, pumps, and valves. The initial and final versions of the P&ID often differ significantly. If Agristo identifies opportunities for improvement during a project, they adjust their plans. They appreciate that Eltra is flexible, proactive, and willing to adapt during the project, rather than rigidly sticking to the original design. We have a relatively large team on-site. When changes occur, our hardware engineer can immediately adjust his drawings, and we can start laying out the cables right away. The fact that Agristo opts for a team from the Netherlands – when a Belgian company might cost less without travel and accommodation costs – is testament to the strong collaboration between our companies.”