Eve didn’t have to worry about shrink or spoilage because she and Adam ate their fateful apple immediately after picking it. But growers and shippers have been fighting an eternal battle when it comes to the shelf life of fresh produce.
Now, however, a joint effort between Intelleflex Corp. and The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. promises to reduce spoilage losses. Officials announced a “strategic alliance” of the two companies Aug. 9 that they say will “improve the overall quality of produce during the distribution process from the grower to the retailer.”
Peter Mehring, president and chief executive officer of Intelleflex, said his company’s XC3 Technology radio frequency identification tags proved during recent tests with Mexican strawberries that temperature monitoring and appropriate follow-up action can reduce losses.
“We had been seeing the same losses in the cold chain as people were having five, six, seven years ago even though they have been trying to address the problem,” Mehring said.
“The efforts were to identify failings and establish accountability instead of addressing conditions as they happen.”
Mehring said a recent six-week test with five trucks a day transporting strawberries from Mexico to Southern California, Dallas and Philadelphia showed up to a 30% difference in the temperature of pallets that were in the same semi-trailer. That temperature difference meant berries on the warmer pallets had their shelf life cut by four days, he said.
By monitoring each pallet’s temperature, distributors can tell which pallets to expedite, Mehring said. He said the test provided data that could have been used at the packinghouse and through the first two layers of distribution to reduce shrink by giving growers and shippers the ability to selectively process warmer pallets before cooler ones.
Officials with The Hartford’s loss control services are interested in improving cold chain shipping efficiency and have therefore entered into the “strategic alliance” with Intelleflex, said Alexander McGinley, a marine underwriting officer for Hartford Financial Services.
While McGinley said it is too early to say whether The Hartford’s customers could get a price break if they use the Intelleflex temperature sensors, he did say that is a possibility. And the investment arm of The Hartford could provide backing for Intelleflex, but Rohit Bodas, director of strategic investments for Hartford Ventures, said the company does not comment on future investments.