Author: Angelica Bercetche
Innovative transport container benefits producer, consumer and environment
The time span of storage and transportation of fresh produce from wholesaler to end consumer is exceedingly large. Standard containers do not reproduce the ideal conditions for fresh produce, resulting in a loss of shelf-life and quality. A solution might be in sight: the Freshbox container.
Freshbox is an innovative transport container that increases the average shelf-life of fresh produce by 30% compared to conventional containers. This increase in shelf-life will extend the quality of the fresh produce and eventually result in a 20% decrease of food waste. The producer can extend the quality of their product and the consumer gets a better product. It gets even better; Freshbox is expected to reduce energy and material consumption by20%. On top of that, this container fits the standard commodity transport methods.
The Freshbox design is extremely functional: the relevant players throughout the value chain won’t have to alter their operational process to use Freshbox. It is designed to adapt and improve conventional transport methods while being versatile enough to carry many different packaging formats.
“Freshbox is made with a completely bio-based blend of polyethylene and polylactic acid that reduces the dependence on fossil fuel-based resources” explains David Ponce from AITIIP, the designers and manufacturers of this unique container. Furthermore, the use of these materials combined with a special production method reduces the container’s weight by 30% while still maintaining its rigidity.
The Freshbox container was developed with a series of innovative features to improve and monitor the shelf-life of fresh produce. A novel system controls the inner atmosphere of the container to adapt to each commodity’s particular respiration rate. The inside of the container’s lid also has a specially-designed compartment for easy placement of active elements such as absorbers and antimicrobial transmitters. These substances help to improve the quality of the transported produce.
Finally, a sensor kit to measure temperature, relative humidity, CO2 and O2 is integrated into Freshbox. Data is transmitted through Bluetooth® to a mobile app where the information is stored and analyzed. “We have been working on the challenges regarding power consumption. By working with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and low-energy sensors we manage to collect data over longer periods of time”, states Dr. Pat Doody who is responsible for the sensor kit development at IMaR.
A series of simulation transport tests took place between associated distributors in Spain and Germany. The transport tests were successful, showing positive results and promising commercial effectiveness, especially for fragile fruit and vegetables such as grapes, spinach, stone-fruit and strawberries.
Freshbox was featured in the ‘Innovative product’s gallery’ at this year’s international Fruit Attraction fair in Madrid. A variety of stakeholders and potential end-users showed interest in the product. The commercialization date for the first Freshbox units is expected for the 2018 fruit & vegetable harvest season. The estimated market price of each unit is a competitive €400.
Freshfel Europe activity report, 2014 (http://www.freshfel.org/docs/2014/Freshfel_Activity_Report_2014.pdf)
European Commission, 2012 “EU Transport in figures-Statistical pocketbook 2012” (http://ec.europa.eu/transport/sites/transport/files/facts-fundings/statistics/doc/2012/pocketbook2012.pdf)
European Commission, 2010 “Preparatory study on food waste across EU27” (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eussd/pdf/bio_foodwaste_report.pdf)
LIFE+ FRESHBOX an EU co-funded initiative
For whom: Fresh fruit and vegetable producing enterprises, distributors and retailers across Europe.
Objective: Reducing food waste and making fresh produce transport more sustainable.
Reason: Millions of tons of fruits and vegetables are transported across the EU each year. However, transport methods need to be improved to increase produce shelf-life, reduce food waste and minimize the environmental footprint.
How: Partners have produced Freshbox, a lighter-weight container built with more sustainable materials that increases shelf-life by 30% and lowers 20% of fresh produce food waste.
Areas of interest: post-harvest quality, supply chain management, thermoplastics, transport, food production and sustainability.
When: From 2014 to 2017.
Co-Funded by: the European Union through the LIFE Programme, the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects.
Partners: 6 partners across Europe, 3 research centers and 3 SMEs in Spain, Ireland and Germany.
Coordination: Sara Remon, of Fundación PCTAD, Zaragoza, Spain.