Al-Hazaa flour mill

Digital milestone improves Jordan’s food security

Jordan’s leading flour producer has placed the need for regional food security at the heart of a decision to open one of the most technologically advanced flour mills in the Middle East at the Red Sea port of Aqaba. With access to maritime trade routes, it will play a key role in supplying markets both at home and abroad and help to tackle the risk of food supply shortages.

In early 2021, the family-run Al-Hazaa Investment Group, based in the Jordanian capital of Amman, commissioned Bühler to design, build, and equip the region’s most advanced flour mill in the southern city of Aqaba. Eighteen months later, the mill near the Red Sea opened. Reviving Aqaba’s historical name, Ayla, Al-Hazaa Investment Group dubbed the new business: Ayla Mill.

It opened for business on July 4, 2022, equipped with the latest Bühler digital technologies. The decision to build the mill in Aqaba was taken to improve the Kingdom’s food security. The Red Sea port provides Jordan’s only access to maritime trade routes and acts as the main conduit for grain entering the Kingdom of Jordan and for exported flour products. “As the world is heating up, causing bad harvesting seasons, scarcity of crops, and instability in grains supply chains, we find ourselves confronted with an increased risk of a food supply shortage,” explains Ibrahim Al Hazaa, Director Manager of the Al-Hazaa Investment Group and the Project Manager of the Ayla Mill. “The milling sector is one of the most crucial industries when it comes to food security, which is why we as the Al-Hazaa family have devoted ourselves, through our latest investment, to enhancing the food security and safety of the local community by opening a state-of-the-art flour mill in Aqaba.”


al-hazaa_2 al-hazaa_2 The Ayla Mill can produce 240 tons per day and has two wheat storage silos with a capacity of 10,000 tons.


Before the plant began production in July, grain had to be transported 300 kilometers from Aqaba to Amman for processing into flour before being transported back to the city of Aqaba, the southern region of Jordan and the port for export. Jordan imports 95 percent of its grain, most of it from Romania, traveling from eastern Europe through the Suez Canal and up through the Red Sea. Ninety percent of flour processed in Jordan is supplied to local markets with 10 percent exported to Yemen, Syria, and the Horn of Africa, along with other countries.

Jordan’s dependency on imported grain has resulted in a long-recognized need to build up its storage capacity to protect against potential disruptions to the global grain market. According to the latest figures, storage capacity stands at 1.388 million metric tons. The Aqaba plant adds to the Kingdom’s resilience by increasing this, while also reducing the need to transport grain for processing.

The milling sector is one of the most crucial industries when it comes to food security, which is why we have devoted ourselves to enhancing food security.

Ibrahim Al Hazaa, Director Manager of the Al-Hazaa Investment Group

Storage is, however, only one part of the story. Milling efficiency is also a key factor. Al Hazaa believes that the use of Bühler digital technologies at the Ayla Mill has the potential to transform milling efficiency across the entire milling operation of the Al-Hazaa Group. “The opening of the Ayla Mill is the first time that digital services such as Bühler Insights have been used in one of our milling plants and I would describe it as a milestone moment that provides an opportunity to adapt the technological advances to suit the unique Middle East milling market,” explains Ibrahim Al Hazaa.


al-hazaa_3 al-hazaa_3 Cyrill Stutz and Ibrahim Al Hazaa walk by the flour collecting conveyor inside Ayla Mill to check the milling process.

The Al-Hazaa Investment Group was launched in 1942 when the company founder, Sharif Al Hazaa, opened his first flour mill. The next two generations of the family went on to open more mills in Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates with the first Jordanian mill opening in 1998 in Amman. Today, the company is active throughout the grain value chain from silo grain storage to flour milling, animal feed, and the production of pasta and Asian noodles. Al-Hazaa Group is the largest milling operator in Jordan with 70 percent of the market. The company also operates a photovoltaic plant producing 36 million kWh of solar power annually, enough to sustainably power all its operations in Jordan.

“I am a member of the third generation of the Al-Hazaa Investment Group to be collaborating with Bühler and this relationship has produced many successful investments in different sectors in the Middle East,” says Ibrahim Al Hazaa. “Bühler has shown great support and help since the first day we started negotiating this mill, starting with the design of the mill flow sheet and layout, choosing the most suitable machines through to the commissioning and operating of the mill.”


Built for flexibility

One of the first challenges when designing the new plant was to fully understand the unique characteristics of the Jordanian flour market. Unlike mills built in countries with local wheat production where grain supplies are more secure, the Ayla Mill was designed to be able to process a far greater variety of grains coming from sources as diverse as eastern Europe, Australia, Romania, Canada, or the US. This means being able to clean a wider range of grain types and sizes along with the ability to create consistent and optimal grist from different raw materials for each of the product lines.

Maintaining optimal grain moisture is an additional challenge in a climate where a high degree of processing flexibility is needed to tackle extreme differences in summer and winter temperatures. The second challenge in designing the Ayla Mill was to create built-in versatility to ensure it can quickly adapt to a very dynamic Middle Eastern market.

We have corporate social responsibility as one of our core values, which is why the group decided in 2017 to take serious steps to utilize more green energy sources and reduce our carbon footprint.

Mariam Al Hazaa, Assistant Development Manager at the Al-Hazaa Investment Group


An example of a recent market shift has been the popularity of pasta due to a generational change in eating habits as well as pasta being seen as a cheaper staple food source compared to rice. Pasta is now well established in the market while Asian noodles, requiring a different flour, are starting to make inroads as a relatively new food source.

“When you develop a mill, you need to keep in mind your market and the Ayla Mill has the widest range of products from white pastry flour to whole grain, bakery flour and Arabian bread flour, pizza flour, pasta, and Asian noodles,” explains Ibrahim Al Hazaa. “What makes the Al-Hazaa mills so unique is our ability to provide such different types of flour to our customers.”

Given the range of products being produced at the Ayla Mill, another key feature of the production process is the ability to control protein levels for different product lines. This involves a complex blending process of different wheat to control the protein content to get the optimum gluten level needed for a noodle flour compared to a pasta or a bread flour.

al-hazaa_5 al-hazaa_5 Mariam Al Hazaa, Assistant Development Manager at the Al-Hazaa Investment Group

The mill is also equipped with semolina extraction and packing machinery. It is these challenging and varied production demands that have led to Al-Hazaa Investment Group developing one of the world’s most sophisticated quality assurance laboratories based in south Amman. It is capable of carrying out sophisticated measurements of gluten performance, water absorption, gas production, and gas retention, along with the creation of a new baking test center focused on the unique demands of product innovation in the Middle East.


Meeting unique challenges

The Ayla Mill has a storage capacity of 10,000 tons of wheat and the ability to process 240 tons of grains each day. The plant is also fitted with data points throughout the production process feeding data to Mercury MES, Bühler’s Manufacturing Execution System, which integrates all processes to enable control over every stage of production. Data is then fed to Bühler Insights, a platform for connecting products and services to optimize plant efficiency, where algorithms compare past and present production parameters to ensure optimum efficiency. One of the key benefits for Al-Hazaa is the ability to monitor mill performance and yield remotely and in real time.

“Despite the distance between the Ayla flour mill in Aqaba and my office in Amman, I am able to review my plant’s productivity using one of Bühler’s newest digital platforms, Bühler Insights, with a customized dashboard displaying the most important KPIs,” explains Ibrahim Al Hazaa. “Bühler Insights is also helping to optimize my plant efficiency, reducing energy consumption, maintenance time, and waste.”


al-hazaa_6 al-hazaa_6 The Ayla Flour mill operates using the Mercury MES, which enables the miller to review important milling statistics in addition to controlling the milling process and trace errors.


The Al-Hazaa Investment Group plans to fit Bühler Insights and Mercury MES to each of its other Jordanian mills by the end of 2023. Production data is also monitored by Bühler to help improve production efficiencies, and a Bühler team is working with the Al-Hazaa Investment Group to see how best to utilize all the production data being generated by the plant.

“With our solutions and technologies, we wanted to help Al-Hazaa increase performance and enable them to extract flour of different grades, from white flour to dark and whole grain flour,” explains Cyrill Stutz, Bühler Head Miller at Ayla Mill. “The Red Sea flour mill will also be producing pollard and bran for human consumption as well as animal nutrition. The high-performance machines installed in the mill cater to a wide range of needs with its cleaning facilities appropriate for wheat from different sources and the ability to produce a wide range of flour from low ash flour 0 to high ash flour 3.” 


Other digital services used in the Ayla Mill include Overall Equipment Effectiveness, Yield Management Service, and Error and Downtime Analysis. By producing sufficient solar energy to run all of its processing plants in Jordan, Al-Hazaa Group has been able to cut its carbon footprint by 12,000 to 13,000 tons a year and protect the business against rising energy costs. “We have corporate social responsibility as one of our core values, which is why the group decided in 2017 to take serious steps to utilize more green energy sources and reduce our carbon footprint,” says Mariam Al Hazaa, Assistant Development Manager at the Al-Hazaa Investment Group. “This is why we established the Al-Hazaa Company for Renewable Energy in 2017, which is the biggest private use solar plant in Jordan, as well as the first company to obtain licenses to generate renewable energy for self-consumption.”

Focusing on food security

Jordan’s decision to focus on food security has meant the Kingdom has been relatively unscathed by the global grain supply disruption caused by the Ukraine conflict. Investment in grain storage capacity meant Jordan’s General Company for Silos and Supply was able to announce there was enough grain stored for supplies to last 15 months when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

The Al-Hazaa Investment Group is contributing to the nation’s food security resilience by providing one of Jordan’s largest private grain silos, with the capacity to store 100,000 tons of grain. Thanks to the high storage capacity, secure Romanian wheat supplies, and the government regulated pricing of wheat, Jordan has been able to maintain grain supplies during one of the most seismic disruptions to the global grain market in recent history.


Watch the video about Al-Hazaa Group to see the plant in action.


“Al-Hazaa cherishes the local community, as we are committed to contributing to the welfare of our people,” says Ibrahim Al Hazaa. “Among the company’s core values lies a need to take social responsibility and to act as leaders and role models for everyone in the challenging times that lie ahead of us. To do just that, we have taken the vital step of opening our new, state-of-the-art mill in Aqaba, and by doing so, are setting a new regional standard.”


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