Demand for fresh food and ingredients increased dramatically over the last several years as North American consumers concentrate on making better and healthier food choices. Consumers have shown a willingness to pay more for higher quality foods, and their desire to enjoy more freshly harvested fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats has increased demand.
Increased consumer demand in the food segment is a fantastic industry driver, and whether you’re a farmer, broker, distributor or retailer, it’s exciting when demand for your products grows. There are some challenges we will face though in meeting additional demand, while at the same time providing a product that retains its nutritional value and remains free of contamination.
I was recently listening to a presentation by Jaco Booyens from Eden Green Technology in which he shared how fresh produce loses 40% of its nutritional value for every four days it’s in transit. As he referenced a map of North America, he pointed out that the major population densities are on the east coast, and California produces more than 90% of some of America’s most common fruits and vegetables…not to mention nuts. This means that from the time that fruits and vegetables are shipped from California to New Jersey by truck, only 20-30% of their nutritional value remains. His point is that in order to deliver a fresh product, with at least 80% of its nutritional value, new innovative growing technologies will need to be implemented that allow food to grow much closer to the point of consumption. Booyen’s answer: vertical gardens.
Its these types of innovations that directly impact the food chain and is potentially one of the answers to the many challenges we face as we improve our farm to fork processes in order to deliver fresher, nutritionally valuable and safe food and ingredients.
TRANSPORTATION IN THE FOOD CHAIN
Currently there is a vast geographical divide between point of harvest and point of the majority of consumption, and whether harvested in North America or abroad, air, sea, road and rail transportation bridge the gap. Especially fresh fruits and vegetables which have some of the shortest life cycles, and a retail window of only a few days, the food chain needs to function with precision to minimize transit time, eliminate delays and maximize shelf life.
In the food chain, you should expect that your transportation partner provides a cost effective, efficient and safe transit of food related shipments while maintaining optimal temperature control and providing transit visibility. Innovative technology, especially that which takes advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) to provide specific and relevant data regarding your shipment in transit is the key to lessening supply chain disruption while at the same time gaining the transparency you require to reduce cost, improve performance, and better safeguard your business.
Consider the end-to-end food chain from farm to consumer…and then add all the hardware, devices and sensors that are capturing data along the journey. It’s no surprise that it takes a great deal of infrastructure to collect all this data, clean it, and then package it in a way that it is actionable.
Before IoT existed, monitoring truckloads from when they left the shed or warehouse to when they arrived at their destination was nearly impossible. Now, we are able to receive real-time visibility to monitor the quality, integrity, and security of shipments while in transit. This includes the ability to adjust temp control trailer units remotely as exceptions occur.
Previously, a seller of fresh berries, where quality and temp control is crucial to optimize shelf life, would have a high risk of spoilage and customer rejections if temperature and humidity weren’t properly maintained in transit…and wasn’t discovered until delivery. Now, with the use of integrated technology, they have visibility and can make more effective supply chain decisions on the fly. For example, if the seller or buyer of the berries are notified that the temperature quality of their product has been compromised in transit, they can divert the load to be processed into jam or to be used as a food ingredient, rather than trying to sell a sub-optimal product.
The strength and agility of your supply chain, combined with the integrated technology available from your suppliers and transportation service providers is a competitive weapon that can be used to meet the demands of your growing business, and improve your market position.