Grate Savings: Santangiolina’s cheesy energy revolution

11 July, 2023

Photo © Alberto Bernasconi

Santangiolina, an Italian dairy and cheese cooperative deeply rooted in Lombardy’s agricultural tradition is revolutionising its operations through the integration of smart technology. 

Over six decades, Santangiolina has evolved from a small group of dairy farmers into a prominent player in the cheese industry, proudly producing renowned Italian delicacies, including the beloved Grana Padano. 

Recognising the benefits of sustainable practices for both the environment and the cooperative’s bottom line, Santangiolina embarked on a transformative journey, prioritising energy efficiency and waste reduction.

In 2012, Santangiolina initiated a comprehensive analysis of its carbon footprint, identifying areas for improvement. This led to the cooperative’s participation in an EU-funded research program focused on developing cutting-edge software solutions for energy-efficient dairy production. 

The research project took place at Grana Padano’s farm located in Creta, just to the south of Lake Garda. The software solution targeted the refrigeration rooms, which are a vital component of the agri-food sector’s infrastructure and consume high amounts of energy, particularly during Northern Italy’s sweltering summers.

With a processing capacity of approximately 9,000 tons of milk per day, and the ability to produce 40,000 wheels of Grana Padano annually, there was plenty of room for optimization.

The results were remarkable. Santangiolina achieved a 20% decrease in energy consumption throughout the summer season, when demand for refrigeration is at its peak. This led to an impressive 40% saving on energy costs in the warmest months, and savings of 25% during the winter season. 

But the cooperative’s commitment to sustainability doesn’t end there. It has also implemented heat recovery systems during the milk processing phases, and together with its optimisation of refrigeration processes, Santangiolina has managed to cut its overall energy consumption in half.

The project couldn’t have been better timed. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered skyrocketing energy prices across gas-dependent Italy, Santangiolina found itself insulated from the crisis, and able to gain a competitive advantage over struggling competition.

Having experienced first-hand the benefits of reducing its exposure to global energy markets, Santangiolina is exploring plans to install solar panels, an endeavour that will drive costs down further and solidify its position as leader in sustainable dairy production.  Santangiolina’s pioneering efforts prove that sustainable practices and business success go hand in hand. It’s a powerful example for dairy and cheese producers across Italy and beyond that embracing smart technology, investing in energy-efficient solutions, and leveraging renewable energy sources can significantly reduce a company’s environmental impact, shield them from increasingly volatile external markets, and boost their bottom line. 

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