Customer testimonial

Schalk Mühle, Austria

Sustainability-led provider of organic grains & pulses brings entire sorting process in-house with help from longstanding partner Bühler

The ethos of Austrian, family-run, grains and pulses business Schalk Mühle, is to use environmentally-friendly practices to supply its customers with the healthiest nutrition on the market. In order to facilitate its growing operations in vegan and organic food production, the company strengthened its longstanding relationship with Bühler by investing in the SORTEX A: Schalk Mühle’s first ever optical sorter which has allowed the company to stop outsourcing and start controlling its entire sorting process in-house. The company has since been able to achieve a 99.9% accept quality, removing problematic foreign material (FM) and white/damaged pumpkin seeds with ease, while remaining competitive in the market.

The southern Austrian state of Styria (AKA Steiermark), renowned for its world-famous pumpkin seed oil, hosts a scenic landscape of mountains, forests and castles. Styria is also home to Schalk Mühle: a leading provider of organic seed, kernel, grain and pulse products. Established in 1859, the company boasts a rich history. But three key factors have kept Schalk Mühle relevant and successful in present times: its passion for sustainability; its investment in the best technology; and its commitment to producing an almost exclusively organic product portfolio. 

Sustainability Matters

“Schalk Mühle is a sixth-generation family business,” comments CEO, Rainer Schalk. “My family operated a flour mill here for more 150 years, before converting it into a pumpkin-seed oil press, which has since become a popular tourist museum. Some years ago, we started processing pumpkin seeds and more crops soon followed.”

“Today, we sell pumpkin seeds, linseeds, sunflower seeds, lentils, beans and chickpeas, organic plant-based oils for cooking and seasoning food, snacks, pestos, creams and protein products for our fitness-orientated customers.”

Having premises in Ilz on the Feistritz River is enormously fortuitous, as it enables Schalk Mühle to minimize its costs and environmental impact by generating its own hydroelectric power. This combined with solar power generated on site enables Schalk Mühle to produce 200% of the electricity it uses each year, some of which is given back to the local community. 

Growing nuts, seeds and kernels naturally leaves a very small carbon footprint. And thanks to our environmentally friendly hydropower and solar power, we produce a wide range of CO2-neutral organic foods, which helps to set us apart from our competitors,

Rainer Schalk, CEO Schalk Mühle

War on waste

With, reportedly, more than 2.5bn tons of waste generated in the EU alone each year, Bühler is also doing its bit to reduce global waste According to the World Bank, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will face fresh water shortages, while a third of food is already wasted each year. Bühler’s sustainability objective is to enable its customers to use 50% less energy, produce 50% less waste and reduce their water use by 50% with its ongoing roll-out of innovative, energy-efficient solutions.

Investing in the right technology

Another important ingredient in Schalk Mühle’s success has been investing in the right technology. In the last five years the company made a significant investment in an all new processing/cleaning line for seeds and pulses which features a Bühler SORTEX A optical sorter. “We needed to be able to deliver the highest-quality end product that could be sorted entirely in-house; previously we were outsourcing. The SORTEX A was the perfect fit,” Schalk enthuses.

“It was our first optical sorter and it’s ensured 99.9% product quality, which would otherwise be extremely difficult to achieve. The SORTEX A works very well with the other machines in the line too. It provides a seal of quality assurance for our partners and customers that we wouldn’t get with any other provider.”

              

              

Also based in Salzburg, Aron Demeter is Bühler’s Head of Segment for Grains & Pulses. He says: “The SORTEX A was Schalk Mühle’s first in-house sorter. It enabled them to reduce their costs, while giving them the very high-quality end products they need.

“Their SORTEX A features PROshape technology, one of Bühler’s intelligent detection solutions, which inspects product based on shape, which is essential when a defective product is the same color as a good one. As well as white pumpkin seeds, which aren’t suitable for snacks, Schalk Mühle can now remove cracked kernels and FM, which ensures very high quality and can prevent expensive product recalls. The SORTEX A optical sorter enables processors to maximize their yields and minimize waste.”

              

Quality Assurance

As Schalk explains, removing foreign materials (FM) such as tiny pieces of stone, plastic and wood can be a big challenge when cleaning pumpkin seeds and other crops. “The SORTEX A is key to our cleaning process. As well as FM, it successfully removes white and damaged pumpkin seeds. We also use it for flax seeds, chickpeas, beans and hemp seeds – we have the flexibility we need. Our SORTEX A stands at the end of our cleaning line to provide quality assurance,” he adds.

“There are older Bühler machines in our museum, so before buying the SORTEX A we knew how Bühler’s solutions performed. The support and aftercare we’ve always received has been excellent with yearly visits from Bühler’s local Salzburg-based service engineers who work with us to ensure optimum performance of our SORTEX A.”

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