A leading global science-based solutions and innovation company is hoping to expand the presence of its "ground-breaking" digital technology services in the fresh produce industry, which has found to have productivity benefits and reduce food waste.
Kim Bui, Global Head of FreshCloud™ at AgroFresh Solutions, says the system provides real-time data about produce freshness and projected shelf life. This digital solution combines data analytics and decades of AgroFresh plant physiology expertise to provide customers along the fresh produce supply chain powerful insights to maximize their return by making better and more informed inventory decisions.
"The current quality state of fresh produce is very hard to measure and is not visible from the outside," he said. "To reduce product waste during transportation and provide product consistency at the store, remaining shelf life must be matched to the remaining transport duration options in tight coordination with AgroFresh post-harvest solutions and treatments. This can only be done with an integrated solution through four FreshCloud™ services. Unique from its competitors, FreshCloud™ combines the AgroFresh service model with aggregated data, machine learning and artificial intelligence to bring customized learnings to a new level and enable significant advancements in supply chain sustainability and AgTech innovation. It provides customizable solutions and customer value covering the supply chain from near-and-post-harvest through storage and retail delivery; creates customer 'stickiness' to deliver retention and penetration; propels sustainability; and increases shareholder value."
AgroFresh Solutions is a global AgTech innovator operating in 48 countries - it has a presence in every fruit growing region around the world. Countries using FreshCloud™ technology include France, Italy, China, United States, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand for produce including Avocados, Apples, Bananas, Berries, Cherries, Citrus, Kiwi, Peaches, Pears, Nectarines, Plums.
"The FreshCloud™ platform continues to grow, gather new data and become even more useful to the industry," Mr Bui said. "Our main goal is to increase utilization and the scale of the enterprise. FreshCloud™’s data libraries will drive informed decision-making in fresh produce by monitoring and reacting to food loss and waste along the supply chains. We continue to evolve highly accurate quantitative models unique to fruit ripening that can predict quality responses. The modelling of the captured ripening parameters and dataset should reflect the true biological relationships of the fruit’s predictor variables. The models should be parsimonious and not over-fitted. These models are being rigorously tested and validated with every customer engagement. Mining and analysing the data stream from the ripening rooms will enable the precise delivery of treatment by removing the guesswork, variable diagnoses, and ethylene strategies. We anticipate that AgroFresh will be able to integrate and analyse any-and-all available data about a ripening room and fruit pallets. Our goal is to be the gold standard for precision measurement, modelling, and prediction for actionable ripening insight and quality enhancements."
He explained that FreshCloud™ is an easy-to-use platform available on desktops and mobile devices, and users access their customized web-based system from anywhere and improve efficiency with automated data flow, reports, and dashboards throughout their organization.
"All the forms, workflows, and admin function conducted through a native app and Web browser," he said. "Apps are developed natively for Android tablet to ensure functionality and minimal downtime. Customers receive support quickly with an agile development and service team focused on their fruit and team members. The introduction process is easy and AgroFresh assists customers on implementation."
AgroFresh Solutions Commercial Director, Asia Pacific Region, Nicholas Sanders says that FreshCloud™ is the first fully integrated solution that can provide powerful insight into customers’ produce quality at every step of the process from near-harvest to the retail shelves.
"Remaining shelf life cannot be measured directly, but predicted by biological models using initial fruit assessment, environmental condition data, and post-harvest treatments,” he said. “A holistic approach is required to provide an automated quality management system encompassing all facets of produce quality. FreshCloud™ integrated data from sensor systems, communication devices, predictive biology and preservation/protection technology are used to match the shelf-life variation to inventory rotation, routing and special handling. Operators will gain real-time visibility, insights and imagery that allow their teams to access the latest quality standards and digitally capture their findings to identify accurate quality metrics and compare performance across various crops, regions, locations, and markets. As a result, growers and packers achieve greater transparency in their supply chain – helping reduce decay, increase overall freshness and reduce rejected shipments. Additionally, packers will know how long fruit can be stored and gain insight into room opening prioritisation."
Mr Sanders says the company has invested more than 20 years of effort and resources into the produce industry, allowing teams to access significant post-harvest physiology and analytics expertise to identify and help solve their customers’ largest issues. For example, FreshCloud™ can use data-driven insights to help identify potential disorders, decay, and overall freshness, reducing the frequency of rejected produce shipments before they arrive at their destination. Additionally, packers can determine how long fruit can be stored and gain insight in room opening prioritization, while retailers can identify where to ship fruit based on shelf life metrics – ultimately all reducing the quantity of food waste at multiple stages in the supply chain.
Another part of AgroFresh’s mission, according to Mr Sanders is to provide the global supply chain with solutions that increase efficiencies, improve operations, deliver high-quality produce and reduce food waste. He says the UN FAO’s State of Food & Agriculture Report found that approximately one-third of all food produced is wasted and half of the world’s fruits and vegetables perish before being consumed.
“Not only does this affect our environment, but it also reduces yield and profit for growers, packers and retailers, and ultimately leads to lower quality and less consumable produce for customers,” he said. “When developing FreshCloud™, AgroFresh wanted to tackle these issues by providing new levels of data transparency throughout the supply chain, leading to greater success for our customers and the world by reducing tedious tasks such as paperwork and sign off processes and instead allow for a more efficient process with real-time decision making and more engaged staff. The enhanced visibility provides a better-quality management window that can help identify previously unseen issues and potential improvement actions. The adoption of FreshCloud™ Quality Inspection by a global leader such as Montague is evidence of that mission, as this service equips them with intelligent visibility, allowing them to be at the forefront of quality decision-making that curtails waste and helps to enhance consumer satisfaction.”
The four FreshCloud™ Components include:
- FreshCloud™ Harvest View automates, optimizes, and increases the speed of fruit maturity assessment and harvest decision-making with visual diagnostics and machine learning analysis. Outputs include automatic and enhanced starch hydrolysis scoring for apples and ripeness determination for apples
- FreshCloud™ Quality Inspection digitizes manual quality control processes by capturing, organizing, and analyzing quality metrics in real-time. This service combines digital information from different physical and digital sources and locations, including analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
- FreshCloud™ Ripening Analytics optimizes and ultimately transforms ripening process decision-making for bananas and avocados to deliver consistent colour that meets retailer specifications. This service is powered by remote sensor ripening room monitoring and AI technology. The data is gathered by wireless monitoring sensors and transmitted to online monitoring software using internet data gateways located at the ripening facilities.
- FreshCloud™ Transit Insights increases supply chain confidence of quality produce reaching the target destination. This service rigorously monitors in-transit temperature conditions, providing users with the capability for temperature control requirements verification. Throughout the transit process, these analytics can help direct shipment destinations, optimizing quality and distance.