Highlights of the SASTA
2018 Congress Programme

Dr Deborah Sweby

The annual SASTA Congress is a major highlight in the SASTA calendar and continues to be the congress of choice for local sugar technologists. Moreover, the event also enjoys consistent support from other African sugarcane-growing countries, and beyond. The continued success of the SASTA Congress reflects the high quality research and technical papers presented as well as the valuable networking opportunities that are on offer.

This year’s scientific programme contains 57 paper presentations covering a diverse mixture of topical subjects. In addition, delegates can look forward to an exciting joint themed session that focuses on dextrans throughout the entire sugar value chain. 

Keynote demystify future business trends business trends

Bronwyn Williams is a Trend Translator and Future Finance Specialist for Flux Trends. Bronwyn has over a decade’s experience in marketing management and trend research, working predominantly with brands in the financial and B2B industries. Bronwyn will present the keynote address entitled “The Business of Disruption”.  

Above: Bronwyn Williams is a Trend Translator and Future Finance Specialist for Flux Trends

The relevance and application of new technologies to businesses now and in the future are both terrifying and exciting. Many of these technologies still seem like science fiction to many of us. The 2018 SASTA Congress audience are in for a treat as we have the insightful Bronwyn Williams to demystify future business trends and to provide insight into their potential economic value.

The plenary session follows the Opening and features the traditional annual reviews of the 2017/2018 season from both an agricultural and milling perspective. This is followed by presentations that highlight two very different, but equally important, topics pertaining to vehicle overloading in the industry and potential effects of climate change on sugarcane productivity. During the lunch break that follows the plenary session delegates are invited to view the Agriculture and Factory Poster papers on display within the Exhibition venue. During this time the poster authors will be in attendance at their posters to answer any questions from delegates.

Several global trends are emerging which makes it important that dextran be controlled.

After lunch is the themed session called “DexTransformation – The Whole Picture”. Dextran is a deterioration product formed by bacterial action on sugars. It has become an increasing problem in the South African sugar industry over the past few seasons. Several global trends are emerging which makes it important that dextran be controlled. Of particular importance has been the increasing global competition and quality awareness in the market, with overseas customers calling for lower levels of dextran in raw sugar. The session aims to provide a more detailed understanding of dextrans – e.g. What is it? What causes it? What effect it has? What can be done to minimize it? Expert specialist speakers from the export market terminal, central refinery, SMRI, back-end refinery, raw sugar mill, SASRI and growers will share their learnings and experiences.

At the end of this joint session all delegates are encouraged to relax and enjoy a few eats and drinks at the Meet and Greet event in the Exhibition Hall.

The Trade Exhibition continues to be a focal point at SASTA Congress. The exhibition continues to receive consistent support from suppliers to the industry with 60 stands being sold for the 2018 congress. Refreshments, lunches and social events are held in the Exhibition Hall, enabling maximum interaction between delegates and exhibitors during the three days of congress. As in previous years the Trade Exhibition also hosts an ‘open afternoon’ on Wednesday 15 August from 15h00 –17h00. Exhibitors have the opportunity to invite clients to network and discuss business at their stands during this time.

Highlights from the Agriculture Session Papers

The first technical session of the Agriculture Programme kicks off on Wednesday morning (Day 2) with papers focused on important pests and diseases prevalent in the local sugarcane industry. This is followed by a session on Sustainable Soil Management that includes topics pertaining to the management of water use and soil salinity. The last session before lunch highlights some irrigation practices used to improve water use efficiency.

After the lunch break the remaining session of the day has an economic theme. The papers in this session examine various practices and initiatives to improve grower sustainability.

The morning of the third and final day of congress commences with a session dedicated to Crop Nutrition and Soil Characterisation. Delegates will hear about the latest research into some of the key soil nutrients required for sugarcane growth. Breeding sugarcane varieties resistant to pests and pathogens and suitable for different growing conditions is the theme of the next session. Some of the topics covered include resistance breeding for Eldana saccharina as well as the importance of post-release testing of new sugarcane varieties. 

The Agriculture Technical Programme ends after lunch on Day 3 with a session focused on agronomy. This final session has a foreign flavour with a paper on modelling sugarcane yields in Brazil. The concluding paper of congress examines the use of soil electrical conductivity as an indicator of cane yield.

Highlights from the Factory Session Papers

The dedicated factory sessions begin on Wednesday morning with a session focused on diffusion. This topic is of great interest to engineers, especially as diffusion is the most widely used extraction process in the South African sugar industry.  The development and use of a new double headshaft diffuser will be described.  A new model will be presented that allows the user to determine the optimum operation of the diffuser by studying the connections between the juice stages.    

The second session on Day 2 spotlights raw-house operations.  Recent designs and installations in evaporators and pans will be presented.  The optimisation of panfloor operations, using instrumentation, will be an interesting topic in this session.  A short session on bio-refining is included in the Day 2 factory sessions.  A cost estimation model for bio-refineries will be presented during this session.

The final day of congress begins with a session on boilers and energy. This remains a topic of interest in the industry. New developments on the use of algorithms for root cause analysis and application of artificial intelligence in bagasse-fired power plants will be presented in this session.  The second session of the day focusses on refinery operations. The impact of dextran on refinery operations, a new look at ion-exchange resin in a refinery and new techniques for treating effluent from a sulphitation sugar factory are discussed in this session.  

The final congress session is a commercial session.  A wide array of products and services are discussed. Assessment of dust explosion in the sugar industry with regard to screening technology will be presented along with integrated solutions for packing technology. Information on a new range of batch centrifugals will be shared.