Hydrovey Systems: 4 Things You
Need to Know to Ensure Food Safety
Any time you transport product from one stage of processing to another, you introduce the possibility of
food safety risks. There are a variety of
ways to move your product from receiving
to packaging, but how do you minimize
the opportunity for outside contamination
during the steps between?
Hydrovey systems are a popular option,
particularly in facilities that produce
canned goods. This semi-closed-loop
system transports product through piping
using a stream of water and can be a
safer alternative to conveyor belts. I’ve
designed hydrovey systems and have
seen them used in the production of
fruit, corn and beans, among other food
While there are a number of benefits
to these systems, there are important
cautions to keep in mind whether you
utilize them already or if you’re upgrading
or designing a new facility. First, let’s
explore the food safety benefits.
Food Safety Benefits of
Hydrovey systems are typically more
sanitary than conveyor belts, because
they offer less opportunity for external
contamination. Since the product travels
through water in an enclosed pipe, it is not
exposed to outside air where contaminants
could be introduced from overhead
walkways, cranes/other equipment and
leaking overhead process lines.
Since hydrovey is a semi-closed-loop system, cleaning is relatively easy.
Introducing cleaning solutions into the
system and maintaining a regular clean-in-place (CIP) schedule minimizes food
safety risks in processing.
Although it’s conducive to improving
your facility’s food safety, the hydrovey
method only works as well as your efforts
to monitor and maintain it. If you currently
use this system in your facility, or if you’re
contemplating investing in it, consider the
1. Design Can Make or Break
A poorly designed hydrovey system
can negate all its inherent food safety
benefits and can actually make things
much worse. It’s crucial to pitch all piping
at an incline in the direction of flow. This
practice eliminates the chances of air
pockets forming by maintaining a fully
flooded piping system during operation.
Piping designed in this manner not only
reduces the risk of bacterial growth, but
ensures full-coverage cleaning.
This doesn’t just apply to new facilities,
either. If you already utilize a hydrovey
system in your facility, do you know if your
pipes are pitched properly? Reconfiguring
your design won’t only improve food
safety, but it can save you money as well.
Of course, you must always maintain
a regular cleaning schedule, but with
properly pitched pipes you may not have
to clean as often as you do now to keep
your system clean. This can result in cost
• Cleaning solution
2. Bacterial Growth is a Risk
As mentioned earlier, your hydrovey
system can be at a greater risk for
fostering bacteria if you’re not diligent
with your cleaning schedule, and if the
system is designed poorly. If pipes aren’t
pitched properly, water can sit in the pipes
with exposure to oxygen — conditions
ripe for organic growth.
In this scenario, you could still be at
risk despite your CIP cleaning schedule
— at that point flushing the line can
just be a temporary Band-Aid on a much
bigger problem. I’ve seen instances where
owners had to dismantle all the piping to
discover bacterial growth and clean out
the entire system.
In addition to proper design, you can
reduce the risk for bacterial growth by
maintaining a regular CIP schedule.
Depending on the product you run through
your piping, you may also consider taking
the extra step of pigging. This is the
process of pressurizing and launching a
“pig” through the piping in order to clean
it out. Think of this as sending a rubber,
bullet-shaped pipe cleaner through to
physically brush out the inside of your
pipes. While this is a more expensive and
detailed option, it is more effective than
flushing your system with cleaning solution.
3. Regular Maintenance and
Monitoring is Crucial
While a hydrovey system can be more
sanitary than a conveyor belt, you can’t see
inside your piping with the naked eye. This
means your hydrovey system needs extra
attention and a diligent CIP schedule to
maintain food safety and keep pipes clean,
otherwise an “out of sight, out of mind”
mentality could enable a food safety recall.
Your cleaning schedule depends on the
size of your equipment and how often it’s
used. A good practice is to tie cleaning
directly to equipment that’s being used.
For example, when the blancher is being
cleaned, make use of that downtime to
run CIP for your hydrovey piping.
Another preventative measure is to
monitor your piping regularly to address
hiccups before they become catastrophes.
Consider installing filters and/or meters
in the lines to track cleanliness. You
can also analyze your water and take
samples to track cleanliness. Building a
By Sam Simkowski, Mechanical Engineer, Stellar