AgroFresh’s FreshCloud expedites production with latest digital technology
International global produce growers, packers and shippers are utilizing FreshCloud, a digital solution from AgroFresh, to maximize produce quality and productivity.
Fresh Fruit Portal met with Kim Bui at the IFPA Global Produce & Floral Show to report on this remarkable platform. Bui is the global head of FreshCloud infrastructure and analytics at AgroFresh, headquartered in Philadelphia, is the global leader for near- and post-harvest freshness solutions, with a mission to reduce food loss and waste.
Bui, who has been in this role since 2017, leads the digital solutions team for AgroFresh. Bui has a Master of Business Administration from the University of California-Berkeley.FreshCloud is described by the company as “an integrated digital platform that uses aggregated data, machine learning and artificial intelligence to sustainably address food waste reduction and derive quality and supply chain insights, allowing for real time decisions with live analytics.”
Bui explains, that AgroFresh, as leader in postharvest quality management has “a great portfolio of solutions to keep produce fresh from the field to the consumer. But how do you measure and produce quality and how do you track quality as fruit moves across the food supply chain? And more importantly, how do you make the information actionable for key stakeholders across the supply chain?”
Apples, melons, avocados, stone fruit, citrus and table grapes are among the commodities applying the FreshCloud service.
Bui said FreshCloud design started with a process that would be “super simple to use.” This uses the power of consumer grade Android and Apple smartphones, as well as tablets. Bui notes a tablet can read fruit color for FreshCloud. “Other companies make you buy a very sophisticated camera system to do that.
“The beauty of our system is that FreshCloud follows how a fruit progresses,” Bui said.
“It starts off in the winter period when the buds are forming, and the buds help determine the pruning schedule. You can prune according to that. And the flowers that bloom.” Bloom size and color correlated by GPS track bloom characteristics to a block level.
FreshCloud’s analysis engine calculates fruit size, color, pressure and maturity levels across fruit varieties and regions. Fruit pressure is measured through a penetrometer device connected via Bluetooth, which brings added convenience and increased productivity. Weather data is often integrated into the system to determine climate changes on fruit harvest.
Bui notes that “quality is subjective. Many people look at fruit and they each look at it differently. It’s like a Rorschach symbol. People can perceive quality totally different. So, we have built in tools where our system can look at disorders and defects and give it an unbiased score.
“That information is extremely valuable to growers because now you can measure performance of different blocks. Is this block performing better than last year? Is it underperforming? If it’s underperforming, what are my options? Is it due to better irrigation? Nutrients? How can I intervene and adapt for better fruit? This is information that growers often lacked. Now they have it at their fingertips. The more information you have, the richer the data becomes to make informed decisions.”
FreshCloud enables all workers to carry the app, and their photographs and other data are consolidated to enable “decision makers to view what happens in the orchard, what happens in the packinghouse, what happens in the receiving area.” They can compare fruit quality to customer specifications, and “the system is smart enough to look at alerts to notify someone in real time that, ‘Hey, these batches are looking poor in terms of their pressure. They’re getting very soft.’ Whatever parameters you want to do. The platform can report that right away.”
Bui continues: “We believe having that level of information in real time enables customers to make decisions rather than waiting a week to see results and say, ‘Oh my gosh! The fruit’s already gone and it’s on a truck. It’s in a warehouse!’”
With immediate information and actionable insights, grower-shippers can make better decisions on whether to sell fruit in the local market or for more profitable export markets.
Then, trend analyses are valuable over time, with easy comparisons to previous seasons.
Overall, Bui said, “Being in the post-harvest business for over 25 years, AgroFresh can leverage our core horticulture knowledge and understanding of our customer’s challenges, and we can look at the fruit business in a way that is agnostic. Our digital platform is very customizable on the front end. So, if you’re a cherry grower, cherries have certain protocols that you measure. We can create those protocols but more than likely we have already completed those for many different customers and varieties in cherries across the world so we know what ‘good’ looks like.
“So, from our experience we can confidently say, ‘This is the best way to look at cherries. These are the inspections you do in order to arrive at a good piece of fruit.”
AgroFresh offers FreshCloud to customers on a subscription basis.
“A lot of customers have worldwide operations facilities in more than one hemisphere. They often have facilities in more than one location and manage different currencies and languages. FreshCloud has all of that too. We are multi-language, multi-currency and multi metrics with weights and measures.”
Customers use the FreshCloud dashboard in their board rooms, marketing desks and operations rooms to see their business and make informed decisions with the help of these actionable insights in real time.