International global growers, packers and shippers use FreshCloud, a digital solution from AgroFresh, to maximize the quality and productivity of their produce.
Fresh Fruit Portal caught up with Kim Bui at the IFPA Global Produce & Floral Show to cover this remarkable platform. Bui is the global head of FreshCloud infrastructure and analytics at Philadelphia-headquartered AgroFresh, the global leader in near-harvest and post-harvest freshness solutions with a mission to reduce food loss and waste.
Bui, who has held the role since 2017, leads the digital solutions team for AgroFresh. Bui holds a Masters 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 take a sustainable approach to food waste reduction and gain quality and supply chain insights that enable real-time decisions with live analytics.”
Bui explains that as a leader in post-harvest quality management, AgroFresh “has a great portfolio of solutions to keep produce fresh from field to fork. But how do you measure, produce and track quality as fruit moves through the food supply chain? And more importantly, how do you make the information actionable to key stakeholders throughout the supply chain?”
Apples, melons, avocados, stone fruit, citrus fruits and table grapes are among the commodities using the FreshCloud service.
Bui said the FreshCloud design started with a process that would be “super easy to use.” This harnesses the power of consumer-grade Android and Apple smartphones and tablets. Bui notes that a tablet can read fruit color for FreshCloud. “Other companies require a very sophisticated camera system for this.
“The beauty of our system is that FreshCloud tracks how a fruit is developing,” said Bui.
“It starts in the winter when the buds form, and the buds help set the pruning schedule. You can crop accordingly. And the flowers that bloom.” Bloom size and color correlated by block-level GPS track bloom properties.
FreshCloud’s analytics engine calculates fruit size, colour, pressure and ripeness across fruit varieties and regions. Fruit pressure is measured via a Bluetooth connected penetrometer, bringing added convenience and increased productivity. Weather data is often integrated into the system to determine climate changes during fruit harvest.
Bui notes that “Quality is subjective. Many people look at fruit and everyone sees it differently. It’s like a Rorschach symbol. People can perceive quality very differently. So we’ve built in tools that allow our system to examine glitches and defects and give it an unbiased evaluation.
“This information is extremely valuable for producers because they can now measure the performance of different blocks. Is this block better than last year? Is it underperforming? What are my options if it doesn’t work? Is it because of better irrigation? Nutrient? How can I intervene and adapt for better fruit? This is information that breeders often lacked. Now they have it in their hands. The more information you have, the richer the data to make informed decisions.”
FreshCloud allows all workers to wear the app, and their photos and other data are consolidated so “decision makers can see what’s happening in the orchard, what’s happening in the packhouse, what’s happening in the reception area.” They can compare fruit quality to customer specs, and “the system is intelligent enough to check alerts to notify someone in real time, ‘Hey, these batches are looking bad in terms of pressure. They become very soft.” What parameters you want to do. The platform can report this immediately.”
Bui continues, “We believe that with this layer of information, customers can make real-time decisions instead of waiting a week for the results and being like, ‘Oh my God! The fruit is already gone and it’s on a truck. It’s in a warehouse!’”
With instant information and actionable insights, growers and shippers can make better decisions about whether to sell fruit in the local market or for more profitable export markets.
Then analysis of trends over time is valuable, with easy comparisons to previous seasons.
Overall, Bui said: “AgroFresh has been in the post-harvest business for over 25 years and is able to leverage our core horticultural knowledge and understanding of our customers’ challenges and allows us to look at the fruit business in an agnostic way. Our digital platform is very customizable in the frontend. So when you grow cherries, cherries have specific logs that you measure. We can create these logs, but most likely we’ve already created them for many different customers and cherry varieties around the world, so we know what “good” looks like.
“So from our experience we can say with confidence, ‘This is the best way to look at cherries. Those are the inspections you do to get to a good piece of fruit.”
AgroFresh offers FreshCloud to its customers on a subscription basis.
“Many customers have global offices 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’re multilingual, multicurrency, and multimetric with weights and measures.”
Customers use the FreshCloud dashboard in their boardrooms, marketing desks, and operations rooms to see their business and make informed decisions using these actionable insights in real time.