Cold chain innovation is necessary for the safe transport of all food and beverage types, and while frozen food certainly comes with its own set off challenges, there is no comparison to those of fresh produce.
AgroFresh Solutions, a global leader in produce freshness solutions, is working to solve those challenges from farm to fork. In July, AgroFresh launched its FreshCloud platform, a data-backed, insights-driven solution for monitoring produce quality through the supply chain, which further drives its mission to provide end-to-end solutions that enable people to enjoy the freshest produce, while preventing food waste and conserving natural resources.
The platform is comprised of three different products, which according to Adam Kinsey, AgroFresh’s general manager of IoT solutions, provides on-demand cloud-based insights that help food producers, distributors and shippers optimize the decisions they’re making regarding the processing, storage, and transportation of fresh produce from harvest all the way through to final retail.
At the field level, FreshCloud Predictive Screening predicts the risk of disorder development during storage by analyzing gene expression at commercial harvest, resulting in more informed storage management decisions.
“Predictive screening allows our customers to see the results of a test that alerts them to the potential or the early development of developmental disorders in their fruit,” explains Kinsey. “Things that might take a few days or weeks to cause substantial losses of a crop, we can provide them an alert of that in advance. They can then take proactive action to prevent that disease from developing or to ensure that the product makes it to an end consumer before any losses have incurred.”
AgroFresh’s FreshCloud platform was made possible by the recent acquisition of Verigo, a disruptive Internet of Things (IoT) company offering end-to-end visibility and management of cold chain logistics. Verigo’s proprietary technology contributed to a revamp of AgroFresh’s AdvanStore offering, now called FreshCloud Storage Insights. Previously, AgroFresh’s customers had limited access to storage room data. They now have a more sophisticated delivery and mobile interface for real-time availability of data.
This is especially important, Kinsey notes, because “it’s often very difficult to know what the current status and condition is of the products that you are holding.”
Some of AgroFresh’s largest customers are apple producers that store millions of pounds of apples in dozens of storage rooms for months at a time. FreshCloud Storage Insights allows them to monitor the condition and freshness of that inventory by using IoT sensors that feed data about the room and its environmental condition. AgroFresh’s team of more than 20 produce physiologists also helped to develop a solution that provides an analysis of gas samples and the constituent molecules that are present in that room, which Kinsey says helps them “understand what the fruit is telling us about its current condition.”
“That’s been a challenge that our customers have faced for a long time—trying to understand when they should go and pull certain products out of storage and send them to an end consumer,” he adds. “It’s somewhat of a black hole; they have very little ability today to know what’s happening in that room. And for the first time, storage insight’s gives them the ability to see into that room and know the status of that product, so that they can be proactive in their decision-making and ensure that every apple—or as many of the apples as possible in that room—make it to the retail store and are in excellent condition for the end consumer.”
Verigo’s technology also now forms the foundation of FreshCloud Transit Insights, which provides visibility into what is happening to produce during transportation, such as the external factors that are impacting the condition of that produce in transit.
AgroFresh uses sensors to monitor produce while in transit that can be attached to bins and pallets to measure what is happening and how the condition of the produce is being impacted.
“For the first time, this allows our clients that are distributing and shipping fresh produce products to have the pallets talk to them and tell them their condition as they’re traveling thousands of miles, so that they can make better-informed decisions about that product and make sure that it reaches its end destination in good condition,” Kinsey says.
Today the industry is flooded with IoT technologies that claim to offer similar benefits, but Kinsey notes that what sets AgroFresh’s IoT technology apart is that it provides more than raw data.
“There’s a lot of IoT out there, such as monitoring systems, monitoring devices and tracking devices. It’s wonderful to see more technology being adopted in the cold chain because it’s desperately needed. The difference is the vast majority of those products are very focused on the generation of raw data,” he explains. “What’s missing from that for the fresh produce industry is that raw temperature information, or even telling you location information, doesn’t help you prevent waste or maximize quality of fresh produce.”
While AgroFresh can provide that type of information, it also is leveraging its team of physiologists to understand the characteristics that are specific to fresh produce and specific varieties of produce, Kinsey says, adding they “translate that raw data and analyze it into the metrics that our customers really care about.”
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