Pod Quality helps growers, shippers and retailers judge the remaining shelf life of each shipment.
After four years of R&D, Verigo launched the IoT platform which combines wireless “Pod” devices, mobile apps and cloud-based record keeping for the perishable supply chain.
Actionable data to make decisions
Adam Kinsey, founder and president of Verigo, said the system gives growers, shippers and retailers actionable data to optimize post-harvest, inventory rotation and routing decisions.
“This concept [smart shelf-life management] has been around for a long time, but it has never actually been developed and released as a usable product,” he said.
“Now that it’s here, we have an opportunity to change how quality is managed to prevent millions of dollars and shrink, and provide unprecedented quality to consumers.”
The company was spun out of the University of Florida in 2013.
“We had a number of users outside food, one was a Netherlands based blood testing lab which needed to make sure its 5,000 shipments of human blood were at the right temperature,” said Kinsey.
“Our initial focus is on fresh produce due to the magnitude of waste and we can provide a larger ROI for the sector. The same principles apply for seafood and fresh meat or dairy.”
Perishable supply chain problems
Over $7bn worth of fresh products shipped in North America spoil in the back of a truck or a warehouse before reaching a consumer, according to Verigo based on calculations from a 2011 UN Food and Agriculture Report
Fresh produce often experiences quality and shelf life loss between harvest and retail sale.
International logistics and customs add further complexity and it can be impossible to identify problems in post-harvest, cooling and logistics before it is too late.
By using more than 30 years of research from the USDA and shelf life studies with berry growers such as Driscoll’s and Berry World, Pod Quality translates the recorded temperature data into an continuous quality score or ‘Product Life’.
This displays the relationship between variables such as commodity type, initial freshness condition, and overall temperature exposure - and translates them to a single metric via Product Life models.
Kinsey said the shipment can be ‘smart’ through the supply chain until it reaches consumers.
“Today when fresh produce is shipped there is often a visual inspection to make sure it meets the grade it is supposed to and almost no-one knows the remaining days of shelf life,” he said.
“Blueberries with a 20 day shelf life when they leave the farm and blueberries with two weeks may look identical and you can’t determine shelf life from a visual inspection. We worked with Berry World across the berry supply chain to ensure they send shipments to the right customers and customer locations.
“It is not common today to look at each pallet, an inspection is taken from representative pallets. With product from the same farm or field packed together there can be a definite variation from case to case on a pallet. Our system gives an average remaining shelf life and today there is no information about individual pallets.”
Shelf life studies
Kinsey said with the pod device on the pallet the user can monitor the move through the supply chain and it communicates wireless signals when a product is cooled or shipped.
“The employee uses the mobile app to get information about the pallets such as seeing the remaining shelf life and making decisions on which pallets to pull or rotate. Information is synchronised to the cloud platform for managers or HQ to see what happens on the ground,” he said.
“The device collects and communicates information for the warehouse to make a decision to accept or reject a shipment or a routing decision. It is important when there is employee interaction with the product.
“Studies have determined degradation characteristics and the most common way is respiration at different temperatures and correlation to decay. Strawberries at 5 degrees Celsius will decline at twice the rate they would at 1 degree Celsius and lose shelf life and quality at three times the rate at 10 degrees Celsius.”
Kinsey said companies usually start with an audit or trial implementation.
“Most customers trial pods on one to 10 pallets over four to eight weeks to get a handle on what is happening from source to their facility. To get full value, put one device on each pallet but to gain insight put on every five to 10 pallets, it depends on volumes, supply chain fragmentation and variability,” he said.
“With GlobalGap and FSMA etc there are major waves in the industry requiring things that were not required in the past like collecting more information to ensure food safety and reliable records.
“It is not as critical if produce is grown close to where it is consumed. As average food miles increase it is more critical, 20 years ago you would not take a perishable commodity and ship it thousands of miles, to do it successfully you have to have a high level of integrity.”