How RipeTime’s Environmental Sensor Will Transform Postharvest Storage

Mitch Denton   |   February 24, 2020
Food Waste Title Image

Wasted fresh produce is a huge cost to agribusiness and the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, 45% of all fresh produce is lost or wasted each year between the farm and consumer, eating into the profit margins and competitiveness of everyone along the food supply chain. 

Much of this fresh produce is lost within cold chain storage facilities. Even within a carefully controlled environment, the living nature of fresh produce makes it challenging to manage consistently, especially with manual processes. The food loss increases storage costs for the facility operators and raises the price of the end product, reducing sales.

Many in the industry assume that this loss of product and profit is just the way things are in the fresh food business. But, most fresh produce waste is entirely preventable with the right tools. 

The Invisible Challenge: Ethylene

The key factor in postharvest losses of fresh produce is ethylene - the invisible and scentless plant hormone. Ethylene regulates the growth and development of fruit and vegetables. It plays a vital role in ripening our food, but things can quickly go wrong in the tightly-packed enclosed environments of storage facilities. Ethylene accumulates and causes fruit decay and waste. 

The problem with managing ethylene is that it’s complex and unpredictable. One damaged fruit can release ethylene that sets off a chain reaction that over-ripens and damages the fruit around it. Without a fast response mechanism, this quickly leads to entire shipments being ruined.

Every shipment of fresh produce behaves differently across the varied environments in the cold chain. Fruit ripens at different rates, making it impractical to manually monitor every single batch. 

To prevent this unnecessary waste, the environment within cold storage facilities needs to be constantly monitored and regulated in real-time. Up until now, there hasn’t been a cost-effective way of doing this. 

Current Ethylene Management Solutions

With current ethylene management methods, by the time you know about problems, it’s already too late

Manual processes for ethylene management are unreliable and unscalable. Ethylene monitoring units are available, but they aren’t smart. Without smart analysis of ethylene, temperature and humidity trends over the cold chain, it’s impossible to accurately detect and identify different stages of ripeness.

What’s really needed is a scalable method to detect extremely low levels of ethylene within cold storage facilities, connected to an intelligent system that can autonomously take decisive preventive action. That’s exactly where RipeTime’s new postharvest technology comes in.

RipeTime’s Environmental Sensor

RipeTime has developed a technology unit that’s revolutionising postharvest storage of fresh produce.

The Environmental Sensor continuously captures ethylene samples from the atmosphere. It can be used within cold storage facilities to detect ethylene and other volatile chemicals at trace levels and monitor tiny changes in atmospheric levels. It captures data directly from the source, so there are no errors relating to collection and shipping samples. 

It’s the most accurate real-time ripening sensor in the world. But, its true power comes from what RipeTime allows you do do with the real-time data you collect. The core benefits include:

Accurate Forecasting

The sensor continuously collects atmospheric readings of ethylene, temperature and humidity. These live readings are sent to RipeTime’s cloud-based servers. The data is analysed and used to generate highly accurate predictions of ripening timelines, without ever handling the product. 

Stakeholders along the cold chain can track fresh produce quality as it moves through the supply chain. With this, you can optimise your supply chain operations and send produce out on time, every-time.

Real-Time Warnings

Acting quickly is essential when it comes to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Over-ripened produce takes less than 2 hours to have irreversible effects on the surrounding batch.

RipeTime’s sensor can detect ethylene levels as low as 1PPB and changes as small as 5PPB. When things inevitably start to go pear-shaped, cool room operates are informed in real-time. 

Alerts are sent out via SMS and email to designated staff. The texts even include suggested responses to take right away based on the data analysed. This gives operators an informed window of opportunity to act before they begin to experience large losses of product. The right actions can be taken immediately to reduce ethylene levels to ensure product quality and longevity. 

Automation

One of the revolutionary aspects of the sensor is that cold chain storage operators can connect their RipeTime sensor directly to their ethylene management systems. The data and forecasts generated can be used to automate the entire process of caring for stock.

A systematic and automated approach to produce management gives storage operators the opportunity to reduce costs, deliver more product, and build a reliable and scalable business. 

Long-Term Data

RipeTime can track long-term data of ethylene, temperature and humidity levels to identify hot-spots and other recurring problems. With this, operators can enhance their post-harvest storage and handling procedures across the entire cold chain and make constant improvements to every storage facility. 

This long-term data is accessed by login via laptop or mobile device. The accurate history of each shipment's journey ensures that you can replicate the best cold chain practices and learn from every batch, every-time.

 

A New Postharvest World

The combination of real-time data, accurate forecasts, system automation and long-term trends make it possible to know the perfect conditions and timing for every fresh produce shipment. Now, produce can be sent out on-time, every-time. 

Kevin Halliday, the Postharvest General Operations Manager for Seeka says that “With this technology, we can predict market-ready condition, control shipping priorities and evaluate potential problems long before they could cause losses”.

RipeTime’s environmental sensor is opening up a new world of postharvest handling. One where fresh produce ripeness levels are automatically tracked and managed, more products are delivered, reduced food loss, and a lower impact on the environment and resources.

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