Priority 6: Reducing postharvest loss
Reducing strawberry waste and losses in the postharvest supply chain via intelligent distribution management
- Jeffrey Brecht, University of Florida, Horticultural Sciences Department
- Cecilia Nunes, University of South Florida, Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology
- Ismail Uysal, University of South Florida, College of Engineering
- Jean-Pierre Ã‰mond, University of Florida, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
- Jeff Wells, Franwell, Inc.
- Jorge Saenz, Hussmann Corporation
- Gary Campisi, Walmart Stores
Deterioration of strawberry quality during distribution can lead to consumer dissatisfaction, product losses and reduced sales. Quality deterioration is most strongly related to initial condition, temperature, and time from harvest to consumer. The project team developed a shelf life model that uses the temperature history to predict remaining shelf life above a given quality level under various conditions, enabling intelligent distribution using a "First-Expired, First-Out" (FEFO) logistical approach. The applicability of this approach to strawberry distribution within the supply chain was demonstrated in terms of model accuracy, improved and more consistent quality, loss reduction and increased consumer satisfaction and sales. To carry out this project, supply chain tests were conducted in which the team evaluated initial quality and placed radio-frequency identification (RFID) temperature tags in strawberry flats at the farm site, then tracked temperature from fields to cooling facilities to distribution centers to stores and conducted additional quality evaluations at the distribution centers. The team conducted simulations using best- and worst-case scenarios to show how likely consumers will be to purchase strawberries from each lot and handling scenario. Results showed that consumers will be more satisfied with strawberries distributed to stores using a FEFO system based on quality and projected shelf life compared to the current "First In, First Out" (FIFO) practice.
Project Outputs and Impacts
To accomplish project objectives, project team members met with the Walmart quality control team to get feedback and discuss how to meet the project objectives working within the Walmart system. A plan for testing the temperature and quality of shipments from farm to distribution center was established with Walmart quality control and two strawberry suppliers. A total of eight shipping tests were conducted from Dole Berry Farms in Florida to a distribution center in Illinois and from Eclipse Berry Farms in California to distribution centers in Washington, Alabama and South Carolina. Strawberries were inspected for quality using a visual quality chart at the field packing site and tracked with RFID temperature tags. At the distribution center, the strawberries were then re-inspected for quality and the temperature data was recorded. Variations in temperature between pallets in the same shipment were shown to be considerable, leading to quality variations at the store and consumer levels. Simulations were conducted using the strawberry shelf life model and the temperature and quality data collected in the shipping tests to predict the remaining shelf life under various circumstances and using logistics such as FEFO compared to FIFO. Results indicated that the greater the variability among pallet temperatures within a trailer, the greater the benefits of using FEFO distribution instead of FIFO distribution to stores. As a result of this project, the concepts of FEFO were introduced to Walmart and the company is considering managing distribution center strawberry inventory on a pallet basis rather than the current trailer basis.