NFC cool chain pilot tracks avocado and berry pallets across borders

Avocados. Picture by Olle Svensson/Flickr/CC. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ollesvensson/

Members of the Cool Chain Association (CCA) have completed a pilot test of an NFC-based solution to the problem of how to monitor refrigerated fresh produce in transit to ensure it has been maintained at the correct temperature and will still have a good shelf life when it arrives in stores.

“40% of the food transported around the world needs refrigeration and 20% of food loss is caused by a breakdown in the cool chain,” says Philippe Schuler, a food waste campaigner with Too Good To Go, a free smartphone app that enables users to buy leftover food at the end of the day from retailers.

“If you have the common objective of reducing food waste, you can achieve it, but we are not transparent across the cool chain and accountability is a problem. The CCA project is a starting point, and as we get more data, we will be able to be more scientific and look to develop best practices and solutions.”

For the pilot, five pallets of berries and avocados were monitored during air transit from Guadalajara in Mexico to Kuwait, using NFC-enabled data loggers placed at the top, bottom, and in the middle of each consignment to measure the temperature at each location throughout the journey.

“This has never been done before,” says Edwin Kalischnig, outgoing secretary general of the CCA and CEO of Xtreme Technologies, which worked with Avery Dennison to provide the NFC loggers used in the pilot.

“Once we identify gaps, we can look at where we can improve, and that is how change happens.

“Establishing trust is important and I hope that together we make an impact, and this is the beginning of a journey towards less food waste.”

The approach “opens up a new way of working, where we are not pinpointing the excursion, but looking at the journey as a whole and developing solutions,” adds Eric Mauroux, global head of perishable at Air France KLM Martinair Cargo and treasurer of the Cold Chain Association.

“When we talk about data sharing, often people approach it from the angle of transparency. In fact, it is also having an understanding that data creates value and it is up to each part of the cool chain to understand the value it brings to them.

“That could mean developing an adapted offer, or complying, or introducing traceability or increasing shelf life, for example.”

The results of the pilot are now being analyzed by the Cool Chain Association and members are now working to take the project to the next stage, including providing feedback to the International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s Center for Excellence for Perishable Logistics (CEIV Fresh) team.