And it all starts from the moment of harvest.
The time of day in which produce is harvested can have tremendous impacts on how it should be processed, packaged and transported. For example, when strawberries are picked in the hotter afternoon temperatures, they’re more likely to respirate. IoT sensors can determine the fruit’s internal temperatures, and this data feeds the analytics that help a producer make critical decisions, such as selecting a packaging option with adequate ventilation, and determining the recommended temperature and humidity conditions for the shipping container.
During transport, additional sensors can track the route location of shipping containers in real time, continually monitoring produce conditions and making informed decisions about the delivery of perishable goods. For example, a shipment that was picked in the morning will likely not respirate as much and will stay fresher longer. Monitoring this information helps allow the producer to deliver these shipments to more distant locations without compromising food freshness. If these shipments are first routed to a distribution facility, the providers will be prepared to bring these items into inventory in ideal conditions to preserve their longevity.
This is just one example of where IoT can connect historically disconnected supply chain providers to make real differences in food quality, freshness and longevity. And according to the aforementioned BCG study, these technologies have already been identified as one of the means to combat food waste. By boosting the food supply chain’s efficiencies and improving its underlying infrastructures, the potential exists for $270 billion in food-related preservation gains. Of course, on a commercial level, reducing food shrinkage also translates into significant bottom-line increases for producers and retailers alike. As the study notes:
“An unbroken, temperature-controlled ‘cold chain’ can help to reduce spoilage significantly. Digital tools can better match supply and demand, improve tracking and streamline transactions.”