What untapped potential could be realised by using more online and IT solutions, mobile apps, drone technology and robotics in the global fresh produce supply chain?
That was the question at the heart of the second EU Fresh Info Forum, which drew delegates from both the software and fresh produce industries to Rotterdam on 1-2 December.
Indeed, across several quite different presentations, the growing need to make sense of the increasingly complex data emerging from the digital world was a unifying theme, as was the need to then share findings and put into practice any conclusions drawn.
Among the speakers relaying relevant experiences from their own companies were Ben Horsbrugh, director of quality management at Univeg Group, and Christoph Waltert, business excellence manager at SanLucar Fruit.
Horsbrugh in particular expressed doubts as to whether the fruit and vegetable industry was already making best use of the opportunities presented to it by IT.
“Every day in the fruit industry, what can be seen is that all of us move a huge number of pallets,” he said. “But in fact this is backed by an enormous amount of data in terms of colour, size, texture, temperature and countless other product criteria.
“In the fruit and veg sector, it’s true that a lot has already been transferred to IT, but I think that could use the massive amount of data we have more consistently, not just to meet the needs of our respective customers but also to keep improving the quality of all products and processes.”
Walter, meanwhile, emphasised the view that ensuring quality and integrity of information was fundamental given the global nature of business.
At SanLucar, he said, the company has managed to go beyond simply improving the quality of its master product data for various internal projects: “In this way, our billing process has been made two days faster.”
In the future, he predicted, companies will be able to create a connection between production and point of sale when planning their grocery programmes much more efficiently and exert a greater influence over their sales.