Fresh from the Fresh Field Catalyst
Recently, our team attended the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) Fresh Field Catalyst Technology Accelerator immersion week. This blog features insights from our VP Partnerships, Kaitlin.
We met with the teams of some of the largest companies in the US to learn about their digital transformation journey and understand their problems.
Key takeaways include cold chain, service delivery, and traceability.
We’re so excited to be awarded a place in the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) Fresh Field Catalyst Technology Accelerator. Along with an international cohort of technology companies, we embark on a six-month program to demonstrate the benefits of new technologies in the agriculture industry.
This year is the first for the program, brought to life by Vonnie Estes, VP, Technology with the IFPA, with the goal of accelerating the introduction of new international technologies to the industry. Unlike other accelerators which focus on very early-stage companies requiring investment, the Fresh Field Catalyst program identified companies with a proven solution in other markets or industries that could quickly demonstrate value for agriculture companies. The program will guide our cohort to the industry's biggest challenges and equip us with industry expertise and valuable connections.
I can’t think of a better way to kick off the program than Immersion Week. Our cohort spent the week together, meeting with and learning about the operations of some of the largest companies in the US produce industry, including Taylor Farms, Bolthouse, Plenty and Driscoll’s. At every visit, we met directly with the innovation, operations and research teams to learn about their digital transformation journey and understand the top problems they are working to solve.
We saw some common themes across all companies we met with, with all companies investing in solutions for labour shortages, water scarcity and improving the value chain. I was excited to learn about how many different solutions are being explored, from breeding for drought-resistant traits to automation of packaging to transport optimization. From seed to shelf, every company is focused on digitizing their processes and innovating to surprise & delight consumers with the freshest food.
While we have been starting to apply our solutions with produce growers & shippers here in Canada, it was so valuable to hear from companies in the Western US market:
Cut to Cold Chain
Cut to Cold Chain’ was a term we heard a lot this week, with growers optimizing their harvesting process and transportation to bring freshly harvested produce to their chilled packing facility in several hours or less. Many companies are so committed to this measure for freshness that they will pack up and move their entire packing line twice each year to where they can grow for the season. From harvesting at night when temperatures are cooler to receiving & packing, cold chain compliance is maintained for the entire process until delivery.
Harvest to Order
As someone with an appreciation for great customer service, I was so happy to hear a focus on service delivery. What impressed me was that most companies are harvesting produce to order and often even accepting same-day orders. Imagine as a customer knowing that the product for your order is harvested, packed and shipped just for you and just in time for delivery.
Another common theme was food safety & traceability - for any produce we saw on the packing line or packaged as a finished product, we saw traceability back to the exact location it was harvested. What’s really exciting is the amount of data available from farm to shelf and the opportunities to apply new AI and ML technology for optimization.
Final Thoughts and Next Steps
Immersion week is only the start, and I’m so excited to continue to work alongside our cohort and learn from experts in the industry. It’s exciting to see opportunities to apply our warehouse or delivery optimization solutions to an industry that’s so focused on the value chain.