Queensland fruit producer Piñata Farms is using innovative Australian-designed Escavox technology to track the temperature and location of premium berries and mangoes along the supply chain, giving it valuable data for optimizing delivery, according to a report in PKN Packaging News, Australia. The company has smart trackers in every berry consignment leaving its main packing operation at Wamuran.

A quick-chill cool room at Piñata’s packing shed uses the latest technology to take field heat out of the berries faster, before packaging in heat-sealed punnets. The Escavox devices, about the size of a mobile phone, are placed by Piñata Farms in a carton or container on loading and are retrieved by Escavox for reuse after the consignment’s arrival.

The tracking technology enables the fruit producer to have real-time data on each carton, giving its exact location and its current temperature. “This was information previously unavailable to us. We now have smart trackers in every berry consignment leaving our main packing operation and every mango load leaving three farms in the Northern Territory during mango season,” said Piñata Farms’ managing director Gavin Scurr.

“We have gained complete visibility over our consignments and can effectively share this information with customers at any time. We could have 30-40 consignments on the road right across Australia at any time and need to know that temperature has been maintained and that the consignment is on time to meet delivery timeslots. The system gives us transparency. If there’s product loss, the system provides an indisputable record of what has happened and who is liable,” he added.

Temperature information includes whether produce is too hot, too cold or exposed to too much light, humidity or movement, based on what the category requires to retain optimal quality and freshness. If the temperature was compromised for any reason (such as truck breakdown or equipment malfunction), drivers could take action to rectify the situation, Scurr explained.

“The system’s GPS function ensures we know where loads are at any time. If a consignment is running late we can tell our customers exactly where the load is and its estimated time of arrival. This is key when distribution centres operate in 10-minute timeslots. Previously, we would contact the freight provider, who’d track down the driver and get back to us with the location, which we’d then communicate with the customer. Now, we can see in real-time, where the truck is and share the information in an instant,” he continued

Escavox founder and chief executive officer Luke Wood said the ability for Piñata Farms to see its supply chain in real-time allowed “simple” solutions such as rejections and handling errors to be fixed quickly. “We give suppliers the information they need to improve their supply chains. Our data tells them why things might be going wrong or going well so they can take the best action. Over time the data becomes an operating model that gives producers confidence to move towards more strategic investment such as developing cool-room technology and key partnerships along the supply chain,” Wood said.

This article was created in collaboration with AIPIA (the Active and Intelligent Packaging Industry Association). For a full update on active and intelligent packaging, come along to the AIPIA World Congress (co-organized by Packaging Europe) in Amsterdam on 14-15 November. The only smart packaging event covering the entire technology spectrum, the World Congress is a meeting place for the global active and intelligent packaging industry where brand owners, innovators, and other stakeholders can network and see and discuss the latest trends and innovations. Register to attend here.