Bangalore, India

A school that does justice to the grain

With the International Rice Milling Academy in Bangalore, India, Bühler has opened the world's first rice school. The high-quality training, that includes topics along the entire value chain, not only brings rice millers closer to the rice grain — it also brings Bühler closer to its customers.  With the International Rice Milling Academy in Bangalore, India, Bühler has opened the world's first rice school. The high-quality training, that includes topics along the entire value chain, not only brings rice millers closer to the rice grain — it also brings Bühler closer to its customers.  

The numbers show certain things: a school like this was long overdue. In many countries the most vital staple food is not wheat or corn, but rice. We consume around 55 kilograms of rice per person per year worldwide. By comparison: Wheat accounts for 67 kilograms. The traditional milling industry, that processes over 700 million tons of wheat per year according to the International Grains Council (IGC), provides training for its millers in several milling schools around the world. However, there was previously no such facility for rice millers who process around 500 million tons of rice each year. 


 "Until recently, rice millers learned their skills on the job — there was no thorough training," says Anna Vega, head of the International Rice Milling Academy (IRMA) in Bangalore, India."It was difficult for rice mills to recruit and retain qualified staff".

Now Bühler is offering customers the opportunity to deepen their knowledge in a four-week course to enable them to optimize their operations afterwards. The "Paddy to Rice" diploma course offered covers the entire value-added chain from seed to pre-packaged rice. Other key topics include food safety and laboratory tests, as well as theoretical knowledge about cultivation and harvesting.  

Until recently, rice millers learned their skills on the job — there was no thorough training.

Anna Vega, Head of the International Rice, Milling Academy (IRMA), Bangalore, India

Hands-on training

The first class already has already got the diploma under their belt. By the end of November 2019, ten participants - the maximum class size - had completed the course successfully. The graduates come from countries such as Nigeria, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines. Thanks to the small class size, students have the optimum level of supervised. Whenever practical experience is required, the class can go to Bühler's Bangalore Application Center next door and run through processes in the integrated training mill. When setting up the school, Anna Vega was able to rely not just on the existing facilities but also on the expertise within the company.

"I can make use of Buhler employees as trainers in their specialist fields," says Vega. "Technologists, the head of the Application Center, product managers, food safety officers, employees from the analytical laboratory — they all provide the benefit of their specialized knowledge." In order to offer the topics of rice cultivation and pre-harvest technologies as well, Buhler is conducting the course in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines. The IRRI is the most acclaimed institution in this field anywhere in the world. 

Synergies between silo and rice

In contrast to the milling business where the miller buys pre-cleaned wheat, the work of a rice mill begins immediately after the harvest. The rice farmer delivers his paddy (raw rice) in sacks or as loose goods, neither dried nor cleaned. "This means that the rice miller must be able to carry out all the processes himself," says Mike Häfeli, Head of Grain Quality & Supply (GQ) at Bühler. Since we combined the rice and silo business a good two years ago, we have been providing customers with the entire rice process, including upstream solutions. "We were the first in the market to offer this complete package, which was one of the main reasons we achieved the position of market leader," says Häfeli. 



Since then, the development teams and technologists involved in the value chain have moved much closer together. It makes sense that Vega, who comes from the dryer business at the Beilngries site in Germany, now heads the competence center in Bangalore. "With Vega, we are building another bridge between the traditional rice business and our upstream solutions for receiving, drying and cleaning". The exchange of knowledge between these areas also benefits students at the Rice Milling Academy: If they understand the effect cleaning and drying have on the end product, they will be able to optimize their business in the long term.

Addressing market needs 

With the school, Bühler has responded to a clear need for training opportunities. "We were aware that we had independent projects in the embryonic stage heading in this direction in three different regions, in Nigeria, Indonesia and India. With the Academy, we brought these local initiatives together and developed a global platform for the rice business," says Häfeli. But not all markets have the same needs: According to the IRRI, there are as many as 117,000 different varieties of rice and different regional preferences. In Vietnam, for example, the rice has to be white and shiny. In China and Japan, however, it has to be sticky so that it can be eaten with chopsticks. Bühler had to learn to adapt the process to each type of rice and market requirement. We are now passing on this experience - and also enabling an exchange between the rice millers, who in turn learn from each other.

"The conversations with each other during the breaks were valuable, even for me," says Vega concerning the first course. Although all the participants had experience in the food industry, not all of them had experience in rice milling: "Even though I had no previous knowledge of rice milling, I managed to develop enough self-confidence to set up a rice mill in Nigeria," says graduate Olufunke Baoku of LifeCare Ventures Ltd. in Nigeria. She and her team colleague Benjamin Adukwu, who even graduated as the star pupil, have gained the necessary skills to establish a rice mill in Nigeria alongside the existing millet and malt plant.

Facts about IRMA

Fully booked
All available classes for 2020 have been fully booked in January already
4 weeks
The diploma is obtained in a 4-week course
Teaching style
60% is theoretical, 40% practical training

Fewer food losses

Especially in countries like Nigeria, where there is no rice milling tradition yet, the Academy makes an important contribution to raising awareness of issues such as food losses and sustainability. "If the employees in a rice mill are trained in food safety, correct storage and pest control, they can ensure that rice losses are minimized the process chain," says Vega. But the Academy offers important insights not only for our customers and their specialists.

The next course at the Academy is scheduled for June. "We originally planned to hold two courses in 2020, but the demand is so overwhelming that we may have to reconsider this decision," says Vega.

Do you want to learn more about IRMA? Contact the rice milling experts directly via e-mail to

Watch the movie about the International Rice Milling Academy

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Bühler AG

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Bühler UK Limited

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Bühler AG

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