Food waste is a big issue nationally, and as much as 30% of fresh produce is lost from the farm to the table. That amounts to nearly $200 billion lost in the $600 billion fresh produce industry each year, according to Tom Schultz, CEO of FreshSurety, a tech company that hopes to put a dent in the losses.
“In the produce industry, the only thing that is important is freshness, and the only thing nobody can measure is freshness,” said Schultz. “Nobody has the information to actually fix things.”
That’s where another huge trend of the time comes into play: technology. FreshSurety believes that it can provide this coveted info by measuring the respiration of produce in real time. In turn, it can help retailers “make better use of the pallets” that they receive by reporting the results via the internet of things (IoT).
Schultz explained that the 30% shrinkage figure could be significantly reduced if retailers had an inside track on which pallets of incoming produce were closer to expiration. Those segments should be marketed first, however, without obvious clues, grocers are flying blind.
With FreshSurety technology, stores would know which produce had already peaked before visible signs appeared. The technology consists of disposable electronic sensors that measure the breathing of the produce. When rates are slowed or cease completely, the pallets carrying those boxes should be marketed first so that they can reach consumers while they are still edible.
The small devices cost about 50 cents each and are disposable. Meant for one-time use, they should not make a noticeable dent in retail profit margins, the company said.
FreshSurety projects to save clients about $250 per pallet on average. The target service fee that the company aims to launch with is $35 per pallet. This comes to about 1% of the produce’s retail value.
FreshSurety has run a beta test with a number of shipments of Driscoll’s berries for AmazonFresh and Whole Foods Market—before the two retailers’ eventual unification. Shultz is optimistic about the results and hopes to be out of beta by next year.
The technology has been in the works for about eight years, and at this point, the focus is berries. Apples may soon be added into the equation.
FreshSurety is based in Orlando, Fla., and it is partially backed by AgroFresh and The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research.
While not available to potential clients yet, the company plans to target both “fresh food producers and retailers responsible for delivering high quality produce to consumers and businesses worldwide,” according to the website.