Nearly one-third of all fruit and vegetables spoil before they reach the supermarket and thus consumers. This rate has been constant for years. Yet, losses could be significantly reduced through a combination of technology and advanced communication. At the Berlin trade show, Fruit Logistica, three companies demonstrated how this works.
The temperature curve from harvest to final delivery is considerable for many kinds of fresh produce. It can be 30°C or more in the field, 25°C in the packer's warehouse, whereas - once loaded on
board an aircraft - the shipment is cooled down to the required temperature until its arrival at destination. During unloading and while being transported to a warehouse, the temperatures
fluctuate again. The graph illustrates the temperature fluctuations that a shipment of vegetables was exposed to in JAN23, on its journey from Kenya to Frankfurt.
Different commodities require different treatment
Normally, these temporary and relatively short-term fluctuations do not affect the quality of temperature-critical fresh products. However, it very much depends on the specific commodity: mangos, for instance, or lobsters, basil, asparagus, shrimp and similarly sensitive items. If they are exposed to high temperatures for too long, they often end up as animal feed or are dumped in a garbage plant. Basil, on the other hand, does not tolerate minus degrees. Almost one-third of all fruit and vegetable shipments spoil before they reach their destination markets, says Oliver Blum, Head of Airmail, Courier & Perishable Handling at Lufthansa Cargo. This figure is valid across the industry.
It is a terrible drain of resources and human productivity which has been going on for a long time.
Transparency is key
According to Rolf Henrich, Managing Director Lobster Logistics Cloud GmbH, this waste of fresh produce can be prevented without having to reinvent the supply chain. In partnership with Lufthansa Cargo and Sensitech, a provider of visibility solutions for the tracking and monitoring of temperature-sensitive products, his company offers the air transport industry a new tool to enhance product transparency. Step one consist of attaching certified temperature loggers equipped with sensors and multiband communication technology to a consignment.
This way, seamless status reports in real time are transmitted to the recipients, illustrating if specified parameters for temperature and humidity have been reached or even surpassed. “Thanks to continuous monitoring and data flow, we know at all times what condition the monitored shipment is in, and can immediately identify challenges,” explains Oliver Blum, Head of Airmail, Courier & Perishable Handling at Lufthansa Cargo. The AWB-based data is passed on to the consignees via email or through a special link. They then decide, long before the goods arrive at their destination airport, whether or not the shipments should undergo express cooling after landing to increase their shelf life. In any case, the customers get full and early knowledge of the condition their fresh produce is in.
Two solutions are offered by Lufthansa Cargo and its two partners for immediate product improvement, and both are carried out at the Frankfurt Perishable Center: Option One consists of constantly blowing cold air into the room the goods are stored in, thus considerably shortening the cooling process, which reduces the quick ripening of the produce, and hence extends their shelf life.
Large transport network is required
The alternative method is to vacuum-cool the goods. If preferred by the consignees, the shipment is placed in a sealed cold room from which the air is completely sucked out. This allows the immediate cooling of the goods to between 2°C and 5°C within just 20 to 30 minutes.
In order to take full advantage of the new shipment tracking and response options in air freight, an excellent transport network is needed in addition to the technology. “Our route network includes roughly 300 destinations in more than 100 countries. This enables us to plan optimized flight routes and thus short freight times. In combination with innovative real-time tracking, we have succeeded in topping our ambitions for a long shelf life of the goods […]. And in doing so, we have also further optimized sustainability in air freight. We are really proud of this,” exclaims Oliver Blum.
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