Curbing Food Waste with Real-Time Monitoring

Through remote, real-time monitoring and management of temperature conditions throughout a journey, carriers can ensure the quality and safety of perishable goods, boosting transparency and customer satisfaction.

Mike Mareen Adobe Stock 381285702 Editorial Use Only
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Imagine sitting at a restaurant with a friend. The server arrives with your entrees (let’s say a burger and fries for you and a grilled salmon salad for your companion). You both look at your meals in anticipation. But, before either of you take a bite, you scrape a third of your food into a tableside trashcan, as diners all around you do the same.

Sure, this may seem like a ridiculous scenario. But if you zoom out and take in the 30,000-foot view, it’s not too far off from what happens every day in the United States, where 30-40% of food produced ends up going to waste.

Food waste happens at every stage of the supply chain – from farm to fork, as they say – and much of it occurs at the retail and consumer levels. However, a significant amount of food loss occurs during transport – about 13% of food produced globally – with the culprit often being temperature control and reefer problems. In the United States, for instance, about half of all fresh produce is lost because of poor shipping conditions.

Hear from Steven Perrin, product solutions manager, cold chain and reefer, at EROAD, and Tim Bates, corporate quality systems director, quality custom distribution, at Golden State Foods, to learn how AI can help your fleet outmaneuver its competition today and into the future.

No matter what lens you're looking through, food waste is a major problem. On the humanitarian front, food is left to rot in landfills instead of feeding the hungry. Speaking of landfills, all that decomposing food, which accounts for 24% of solid waste in the United States releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. And let’s not overlook the emissions created and resources used (and ultimately wasted) to produce, process and transport the food in the first place. Finally, food waste costs the U.S. economy an estimated $218 billion annually. And when temperature-control issues during cold chain transport result in food waste, motor carriers suffer from lost revenue, damaged reputations and the risk of going out of business altogether.

Strengthening the transportation link of the cold chain

With food waste happening at so many points in the supply chain, there is no single solution to the problem. However, when it comes to food transportation, advanced technologies are emerging that can strengthen that specific link in the cold chain to help carriers run overall safer, more sustainable and more profitable operations.

Temperature monitoring and control are crucial to successful reefer management. When temperature control is lacking, the risk of damaging perishable goods (or losing a load altogether) increases. Moreover, when left uncontrolled, reefer units use a significant amount of fuel, needlessly increasing carriers’ operating costs and impacting food prices along the way. Likewise, inefficient pre-cooling, trailers being used as impromptu storage units and trailers getting lost in the yard are additional scenarios that result in fuel waste.

Leveraging technology to consistently monitor and manage reefer units helps carriers greatly reduce the potential for lost loads and optimize their cold chain operations.

Remote temperature monitoring

Having a driver pull over to manually probe products is inefficient and prone to human error (or intentional falsification). Today’s technology allows carriers to continuously monitor trailer temperatures in real time. Advanced solutions that incorporate artificial intelligence, algorithms and IoT sensors can provide core product temperature readings for different products and different trailer compartments. Temperature data can be made easily accessible to stakeholders for full transparency, improving customer confidence. And automated alerts inform carriers of temperature deviations or problems with the reefer itself, giving them time to fix problems before a load is lost.

Two-way reefer control

Two-way reefer controls, paired with automated temperature alerts, empower carriers to respond to problems in real time. The ability to adjust a range of settings – such reefer on/off, return air and temperature set point, among others – provides carriers with the control they need to ensure the successful transport of perishable goods.

Remote pre-cooling

Remote pre-cooling streamlines operations – saving both time and money – by eliminating the need for on-site personnel to manually activate reefer units and ensuring that reefers are activated only when they need to be. Remotely preconfiguring temperature settings reduces the chance of driver input errors, helping to avoid compliance issues and rejected loads. Also, having access to historical data from across a fleet can help carriers measure the success and costs associated with pre-cooling procedures, and make informed business decisions to increase efficiencies and cut costs going forward.

Adopting advanced reefer monitoring and control tools empowers carriers to transform their cold chain operations. In addition to reducing financial losses from rejected loads, these technologies can go a long way toward curbing transportation-related food waste.

Through remote, real-time monitoring and management of temperature conditions throughout a journey, carriers can ensure the quality and safety of perishable goods, boosting transparency and customer satisfaction. Moreover, this proactive approach underscores a commitment to sustainability, as it not only optimizes operational efficiency but also reduces environmental impact. In embracing these technologies, carriers not only safeguard their own interests but also show their commitment to preserving the integrity of the food supply.