Image credit: RipeLocker
Many of us take the food supply chain for granted. As long as produce, pasta and other items get to our markets and into our homes, we don’t usually give much thought about how far the food must travel to get from the field to the table. Along the way, food can be spoiled if not treated properly.
But food often needs to travel great distances and needs to be carefully handled to avoid spoilage. Food stays nutritious and edible only if it can be kept relatively fresh during transport. Supply chain providers aim to optimize temperature and moisture, in an attempt to hinder the growth of organisms that lead to spoilage.
Says a Rockefeller Foundation report, food waste and loss is an increasingly urgent problem, particularly in developing countries where food loss reduces income by at least 15 percent for smaller farmers and downstream value chain actors, including those who are food insecure.
Producing food that goes uneaten also wastes resources. Statistics from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) say that as much as 40 percent of food goes uneaten. Much of the waste is due to inefficient food transportation practices. Technological innovations that shorten food transport time by increasing speed and decreasing spoilage en route now help provide food to the growing and increasingly urbanized human population living far from where food is grown.
Temperature-controlled Food Transport
Through the years, technological advances and age-old practices have helped preserve food. In the distant past, humans dried, salted or smoked some foods to keep them fresh. During the industrial revolution, food was preserved by canning and other techniques.
Today, food preservation still relies on the principles discovered by ancient cultures: stopping the microbial population growth by using low temperature, dehydration, wood smoke, or organic chemicals, for instance. Modern preservation techniques can combine methods, such as adding chemicals and freeze-drying, to increase shelf life.
Monitoring Real-Time Container Conditions with IoT
Now, IoT is also helping with food preservation in the supply chain. RipeLocker offers shipping containers designed to help reduce loss of fresh produce and flowers. The RipeLocker containers are pallet-sized and portable and help suppress pathogen growth to fight against decay. The containers extend shelf life during transit, so producers can reach more distant markets via ocean and truck instead of more expensive air transport. Because they work to reduce food waste, RipeLocker containers can help reduce energy and resources needed to grow additional crops.
The containers use a unique system to precisely manage the oxygen, pressure, CO2 and humidity inside the containers and also can deliver organic fungicide vapors to kill pathogens. The system is flexible and customizable; the system can be set with specific operating parameters to suit specific needs of different produce types. The system also responds to changes in the storage or shipping environment, adjusting to prevent damage. The company monitors the internal and external shipping container conditions in real-time and automatically makes the necessary changes.
Image credit: RipeLocker
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently began trials with RipeLocker to assess the technology’s ability to reduce chemicals typically used to extend the storage life of produce. The company already has completed efficacy trials with some high-value commodities including fresh hops, flowers, and papayas. The RipeLocker technology has been shown to keep freshly harvested roses in beautiful condition for four weeks and maintain the freshness of organic blueberries for up to eight weeks.
Learn more about technology that can help maintain food freshness in transit: