Monitoring the cool chain
- Using loggers to improve fruit quality and shelf life
- Accessing temperature data in 'real time' to make decisions or change strategies
- Different types of temperature monitoring technologies
- Encouraging growers and exporters to monitor their cool-chains
- Trialling a new dashboard that is user friendly and makes data interpretation easier
- Temperature Monitoring Technologies
- Air freight
- Sea freight
- Case study 2020 - Export company: Montague's Rowan Little, Chief Innovation Officer
Remote data loggers for fruit being exported
There are many types of temperature data loggers available to industry for remote monitoring of fruit along the export chain. Each type of temperature logger has its own merits ranging from:
- ease of use,
- single use or reusable,
- SMS/email notifications, and
- airline approved.
Many exporters currently use USB temperature loggers which are generally discarded, or the data never accessed unless there is a dispute. So generally, there is no feedback of information to the exporter. A benefit of using remote temperature loggers is that the exporter can choose to receive alerts in ‘near real time’ so that decisions on the consignment can be made sooner rather than having to wait for it to arrive at the final destination, which could otherwise be too late.
Temperature Monitoring Technologies
Temperature technologies - a factsheet produced by Queensland Dept. Agriculture & Fisheries. PDF opens in new window (Note: this document does not meet WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines.)
Choosing a consignment monitoring technology - a factsheet produced by Queensland Dept. Agriculture & Fisheries. PDF opens in new window. (Note: this document does not meet WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines.)
Several companies such as Emerson, Escavox, Fresh Key, Frigga, Sensitech and Tive have developed new generation wireless SIM-based data loggers that are capable of monitoring different parameters such as temperature, light, relative humidity, shock and location in real-time. These innovative loggers have global coverage and work similarly to a mobile phone in that they connect to the nearest phone tower via 2/3/4/5G and autonomously upload data to cloud-based systems that can then be viewed on a handheld device or PC.
Real-time alerts via SMS or email can also be set up to notify users when product arrives at, or departs from pre-determined locations, and if consignment temperatures fluctuate outside set limits. These features come at a cost (e.g. a higher unit price and extra time to set them up compared to USB loggers) however, as export manager for Montague, Mark Bailey said “the main drawcard of these loggers is that the entire supply chain is more visible and in real-time so that potentially if there are any issues, then we can act on them in a more timely manner. For example, if we receive an alert and see the temperature increasing then we can contact the transport or shipping company and ask them to go and check it out”.
When deploying real-time loggers, it is recommended to start them 1 to 2 hours prior to positioning them in or on the top carton of the pallet closest to the door end of the shipping container so that there is minimal communication interference from the motor and water mass of the fresh produce. Temperature data and location may be updated en route depending on the location of the container on the vessel. If the shipping container is stacked in the middle of the vessel or when the vessel is out at sea, then the signal may be compromised. Information will be stored on the device until it comes into range with the next available mobile tower where data will be uploaded to internet cloud servers and accessible to approved users.
Part of the project is monitoring the cool chain in real time with these data loggers so that we can access the temperature in real time, and we can make decisions, by the time the fruit gets to the port or the dock. If there's been any problems, it's possible to to change the strategy for marketing or even sales. There's many data loggers available in the marketplace. There's a few that we're trialling in this project, and it's looking at the accuracy and the consistency of the logos and also the functionality of them and how practical they are at gathering information for growers and exporters.
This Emerson one is approved for airline use and also we've been using it for sea freight. This Sensitech logger we've been using for sea freight. SIM card based, they send a signal to a telecommunication tower. The data is then transferred to a data system, and it's accessible online or through the oversight website. One of the other logos we've been using is the Xsense. It works by radio frequency. So it sends a signal to a communication unit, and the data is downloaded when it's within 100 to 200 metres of this control unit. Another logger that we've been using is the Verigo logger. It works via Bluetooth. So the exporter or the importer can download an app to their mobile phone. They open up the app, it searches for active loggers in the area, and you click on a button and it will find the logger. It will download data and then you can send it via email or you can graph it as well.
In this study, Xsense® HiTag2 loggers (disposable wireless radio frequency temperature loggers) were used to remotely monitor air-freight consignments to two Asian markets.
Download this information as a pdf PDF opens in new window (Note: this document does not meet WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines.)
Sea freight study
Video: Interview with Rowan Little, Chief Innovation Officer (Montague) - using temperature loggers and what they've highlighted for industry.
Montague are an exporter business and fruit producer in Victoria. They are investing in the Serviced Supply Chain project to improve the export quality of their stone fruit varieties and are looking at the value of real-time data loggers.
The question about monitoring is an interesting one because traditionally we've always done some temperature monitoring, but it's largely up until recently been, geared largely towards, compliance and for some markets where there's cold disinfestation, a protocol you have to probe your containers just because that's what the protocol says.
In other instances, we have put temperature recorders in there because we've taken inherent vice insurance on the container. And if you get, if you want to get insurance, you have show a breach in the temperature of the container in order to, you know, claim the insurance. So when this project came up, I guess the reason that we were excited, by it, it was, it started out being about temperature, but I actually think it's more now just about, looking at where the container actually went. So it's looking at the routes that container went and it's also looking at the time the container took to make its way to the destination market. So while it started out at temperature recording, it ended up being a really neat device to actually see what was happening in the supply chain for our fruit, between when we load the fruit, put it on a container and wave it goodbye at the port and when they get it and sell it. so in answer to your question, what did we learn? The biggest learning we found is it's taking a very long time, typically between when we ship a container of stone fruit, and when the customer actually sells it.
And from the data that we've found for a sea freight voyage, it's taking over 30 days often to do that. and the issue with that is that typically we know from the other work in the project, that a lot of the cultivars that we're shipping are past their optimum quality. it's not bad. It's just, it's missed its optimum opportunity to make the customer really happy.
Where we started out with our, our testing was really largely about a temperature recorder that the person who received the fruit really had to get that, fruit out. And they had to download the data from the temperature recorder, which, there was a whole range of problems with that. One was you really didn't see what was going on with the, with that shipment while it was in journey. So because you had to download that data and they had to physically get it, the second big problem was that often the customer at the other end couldn't find the recorder, or they chose not to find the recorder. In which case you didn't get the data. So the most recent year, we've really focused on a SIM card based temperature recorder, which means when it goes by our mobile phone tower, it will upload the information and that's enabled us in real time to see where our fruit is at any given time.
And it's actually highlighted some really interesting things about the route that our, that our shipments have taken and often that's far from direct. So we're seeing it stopping for a long period of time or, you know, going into a port and then out of a port and back to the same port. So doing big loops and all sorts of weird stuff.
We do use air freight. yeah. Look, air freight is the, it's almost the opposite. I guess the time. What we've discovered from the temperature probing is that time is the enemy of sea freight. So the delay costs and we've been delighted with the temperature. So of the probing work that we've done, generally the temperature in the container has been very consistent. So we can't criticize that, the shipping lines have done an excellent job. We set it at a particular point and for the whole time of the journey, it is at that point. The problem is the journey is just a little bit long.
It's almost the reverse with the air freight. With air freight we're pretty excited, that realistically, if the fruit's moving very quickly, so we're turning that around super fast. The problem is that the fluctuation in temperature, it can be quite extreme. And we do see, particularly when fruits on the tarmac in a particular, you know, usually in Australia where it's summer, or in Southeast Asia, where it's very hot all the time, it can be left for a period of hours unrefrigerated and the core temperature gets dangerously high. So that accelerates the ripening. But the time it takes, brilliant. It's taking, you know, generally less than three to five days to get to the destination market. So no problem at that end, but, you know, the data tells us that even if we go over about 24 hours at certain temperatures, we are doing damage to the fruit.
Typically all of the fruit that we've been shipping to Southeast Asia, almost without exception in the previous seasons has all been by air, just because the price difference between air and sea is marginal, because the number of flights from Australian cities to the Asian gateways, Singapore, Kula Lumpur, typically there's a lot of flights and the price difference is not significant. However, this will be the first season coming up and in the post COVID world, the air traffic is just not there. And all of typically the vast majority of fruit goes, has up until now, gone on passenger aircraft. Yeah, that the government's offering some subsidies and whatever for air freight, but the volume is just not going to be what it was. So we're probably looking at that and going, but we think probably we're going to have to migrate more to sea freight, moving forward.
The area that I find frustrating is, just the number of stops. So I think we're probably as an industry, as a summer fruit industry, you know, is there a way we could develop some shipping lines who we collaborate together as an industry, you know, between mangoes has the same problem. There's very limited sea freight options because the time is too long and they need to get it in to the market faster than the sea freight journey. Is there room to work together, with the supply chain to really speed up that shipping line, to stop all that, you know, get a boat that doesn't stop 25 times before it gets to the market that it needs to, streamline the amount of time. Can we deliver fruit later to the port so that we can get it on the ship and the ship sails instead of it's, you know, spending two days, at the port, even before it sails because every little, every day that you see adds to the time. And what we're trying to do is just reduce that time. So anytime fruit is sitting on a boat and the boat's not going anywhere is, the clock's ticking, we're wasting time.
Talk from Summerfruit Webinar series 2020: Managing fruit quality for export
Glenn Hale, from Agriculture Victoria, presents at the Summerfruit Industry webinar series 2020, talking on a key topic for industry: Using real-time data loggers and dashboards
Webinar presentation - PDF opens in new window (Note: this document does not meet WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines.)
Transcript of Webinar Video: Using real-time data loggers and dashboards
So this afternoon, I'd just like to cover the Service Supply Chains project, some of the temperature loggers that we've been using, summary, uh, show you a dashboard that Queensland DAF have developed in consultation with some exporters and growers. There'll be some more information at the end and also a chance to ask some questions and comment.
The service supply chains is a joint project with Queensland department of Ag and Fisheries. It's been running now for three to four years. There's three main components in the project. One of them is temperature monitoring and that's what I'll talk about today. The second one is decision aid tools or DAT's, and that's what John Lopresti has been working on. We presented some information on that last week and we'll present some more next week. And the third component is sustainable solutions, which is, the technology transfer or extension side of the project.
So the goal of the service supply chains project is to increase the value and profitability of Australian horticulture. We're looking at exports to Asia. And how are we going to do that? We’ll be looking at improving the freshness, the taste and that consistency. And one way we will be doing that is through demonstrating the benefits of temperature monitoring to growers and exporters, and trying to encourage industry to adapt this technology.
Now, traditionally, I guess, growers and exporters have used USB data loggers, and that's to protocol markets. But, sometimes the information, the temperature data, doesn't always come back to the growers of the exporters. And, it's certainly, generally through insurance claims that the growers or the exporters will be getting information.
And that's where real time data loggers come into it. the loggers on the left here, are SIM card based loggers. this is only a small selection of what's available out there in the marketplace, but these are the ones that we've been trailling in this service supply chains project. And you can see there's Emerson, Frigga, there's a TempTale and a Tive logger. The one in the middle is an Xsense logger and, it works a bit like, a toll way. it works by radio frequency. So when the logger passes within a hundred meters of this control unit, that'll download the data. The logger on the right is a Bluetooth logger. And it's similar to, I guess, a USB logger except, the importer doesn't need to retrieve that.
If they're within 30 meters of the logger, they can connect to it through Bluetooth on their phone. All of these loggers, are suitable for road, sea and air transport. However, there are some exceptions, with the air freight, just due to, the technology and flight mode capability. And I'll go into that in a little bit more detail later.
Some of the technical specifications of the loggers, here, I'm not going to be recommending any loggers, but it's just here for comparing and contrasting, I guess, Generally they're around 80 to a hundred mil, in size and they weigh roughly a hundred to just over 150 grams. They all have temperature, location and light sensors. And the light sensor is particularly if shipping containers are opened, well then you can see an increase in the light levels on the logger, or if the loggers within the carton, when the cartons opened, you can identify that. Some of the loggers have a relative humidity, vibration, shock, and motion sensors. And as far as I know the only one that has a probe, he's the Frigo Maga. The one made a cable would be useful for measuring core temperature of fruits, say within the same box as the logger itself, or there is a 15 meter cable that you could put down the other end of the shipping container, so you can get two different temperatures. There are alerts by email and SMS. They, have additional charges.
Some of the other specifications is the battery life, generally 60 days. The Tive blogger is a bit longer. They all have access to cloud facilities, and the temperature ranges of these loggers vary from about minus 30, up to about 70 degrees, which is more than adequate. The accuracy is pretty good being half to one degree. And the interval time and the reporting interval is I guess, important because that depends on. it'll burn through the battery a lot faster. So depending on the length of the trip, you can, extend these intervals just so that the battery lasts a lot longer.
Reporting wise, they have, Excel, PDF word and CSV, which is a data file, which you can download at any time. And most of them, are recyclable or they have a green option these days. How do these real time loggers work? They have a SIM card in them, much like a mobile phone. So they connect to the mobile phone network, where they upload data automatically then transmits into the cloud. And then the user can see the data, on a PC or handheld device, pretty much at any time. As long as there's a connectivity. How to start these loggers, pretty simple, pretty quick. The Emerson one, you just have to pull a tab, and the other loggers, push a start button. One of these green buttons here, hold it in for a few seconds until lights flashing. There's a few beeping sounds. My advice is to start these loggers early, at least one to three, two hours before deploying because they need to connect to the network and, like at home or at work, there's always, some areas where reception can be low. So it's good to take the loggers to either there an open area or an area where there's good reception, just so that they connect, prior to deploying them. Because if you don't well then, data or information may not be available until the loggers reach importers, overseas. So that could be three or four weeks later.
After activating the logger, it's just a matter of going to their home page, logging in, entering a serial number or an additional code, with the Frigo Loga and then activating the logger. That's the quick bit, the slower bit is creating shipments and setting up alerts, and as you can see on the right hand side, the more information you put in, I guess the more you'll get out. But it's also important if you have a lot of loggers , it would be easier to track or manage, the information within say a few weeks of, the export process, or even if you're analysing data at the end of the season. The alerts you can set up so that you get email or SMS. You can set up thresholds, temperature threshold so that, if the logger temperature goes above the set a level, will then you can get an email or an SMS and similar for location alerts as well. You can set locations along the supply chain so that when the logger passes into this location, it can send you a message, which I guess is good for alerting customers or freight forwarders that there's produce on the way.
Where to place the loggers. The logger companies recommend placing them in on the top of the last pallet, closest to doors, whether that's on a truck or in a shipping container. They don't generally recommend inside the carton, because that interferes with the signal sometimes, and not on the wall or the floor. If the loggers are placed outside the container where the project is, well, then it's not, I guess, giving the most accurate, environmental temperature of what, the produce is in.
Air fright, Emison loggers, are approved for over 20 airlines. They're in discussions with a few more. The Tive logger is approved for 4 airlines there and, Escavox, which is, I guess, the new kid on the block, has approval for two local airlines, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia.
Because these loggers contain SIM cards, like a mobile phone, they need to be able to go into flight mode automatically when they're at the airport or upon loading. So Emerson have two ways that loggers can, transmit into flight mode. A function and that is through GEO fencing around the airport. So when the logger passes through this, geo-fence, it'll automatically transfer to flight mode. And the second option is they do contain an accelerometer in the logo, and when they detect rapid changes in speed and height, they automatically transfer into flight mode. With the Frigga logger, it's a little bit more manual where you need to type in the airport, and then tick a box here, which then sets up flight mode within a five kilometer radius of the airport. And you need to set how long you would like the logo to be in flight mode.
So just in summary, there's many positives of using realtime loggers. the first one is that I guess the entire supply chain is more visible so that, you can see where temperature fluctuations might be occurring and then you can enact on them to try and streamline it and reduce those temperature fluctuations. It is in real time. which means if there is any issues, then you can do something about it rather than waiting for produce to arrive, at the end of the supply chain or the importers, for example. The alerts settings are a good function. and as I've mentioned, you can set up, temperature alerts and also location alerts. And with those loggers, you've got full access to the data, right from the time you start them and you can download reports, pretty much anytime 24-seven. And as I've mentioned, they're useful for roads, sea, and air transport with some restrictions,
Some of the cons. Well the not so good points is signal may be compromised. These realtime loggers, when they're in the middle of the ocean, there's obviously no mobile phone towers, so they can't download information there, but they will hold that information until they come into contact with a mobile phone tower at the other end, and then all the data will be downloaded.
And obviously air freight, not all airlines have approval to use them as yet. There are higher unit costs for these loggers. Real time logos are approximately 80 plus dollars, which is obviously a lot more expensive than say a USB logger, which has been used in the past. And they also have a minimum order as well.
So , say for example, ten may be a minimal for some of the loggers. One other negative potentially is that, with the start buttons, they may accidentally be pushed. So that's just something to be aware of when using these loggers. And also the time to program them. I did set one up a few weeks ago, not having done it for a while and it took me roughly 15 minutes, but that was because I was setting up these alerts, so I needed actual addresses for, when the loggers passed into say the ports, around Australia or overseas. The dashboards, the data on some of them are limited to a few months. so there's just something to be aware of. Other logger companies have the data available for much longer periods. This is something to be aware of. And also the battery shelf life is generally sort of limited to several months. so when ordering the it's best to order the ones you're going to use and not keep them on the shelf, I guess for 12 months or for next season .
Just an example of some photos that, from a sea freight consignment that went to China earlier this year, and the logger's positioned in there. There's one here measuring core temperature and interestingly the core temperature didn't vary much. There wasn't much difference between the core and the ambient temperature of that box, which was good.
To the dashboard now. This is a dashboard developed by Queensland DAF, in consultation with growers and some exporters. it's used for research purposes only. So it's not trying to compete against the other dashboards from these bigger companies. but you can see here. Some basic set up here - the loggers, the shipment numbers, we have the API for couple of Loggers, Frigga and Tive at the moment and that so that we can live stream the data from the logger into this dashboard. We can also set logger positions on here. Your origin and destination, when they were last recorded and the most recent location and the green line or the green ticks here means that they're all within the threshold limits that have been set up before. And if we go and look at one of these consignments, this is some of the information that we've put in at the start. So the, fresh fruit consignment from Northern Victoria to Indonesia to Surabaya. We set up some location alerts around these places here, so that when the logger passed within that range, we got an alert notifying that it was there. You can see the, the map of the route there, and I'll show you a larger version of that in a minute. And yeah the threshold temperatures there would sit at a minus one to four.
So if we go and look at the map in a little bit more detail, these red pins here are downloads from mobile phone towers. So it'll draw a straight line between these points. Obviously the ship's going around the bottom of WA there, but you can see it's going to Indonesia. It's gone up here, through here, and it's actually gone to Malaysia first, come back to Singapore and then come back down to Surabaya in Indonesia. And, this trip here, I think it was roughly four weeks. And there's a little bit more detail. These are the pings on the coast here. This is a temperature graph from the actual logger. If you hover the mouse over the temperature graph, it all show you the date and the time and the temperature.
Just a little bit more information on the project. There was, an industry article published last year in the Vine magazine in July, that explains a little bit more about the project, and some useful features of some of the loggers that we've used, conducted in the outturn assessment there, in I think it was China.
Another industry article that, is in the process of being published at the moment in Across Borders, is coming out next week, I believe. Just has some more information about these loggers and there's that Map that I was just explaining here. Interestingly, there's a section here that is from an exporter. If we receive an alert and see the temperature increasing, then we can contact the transporter shipping company and ask them to check it out. and interestingly, just recently, I received an alert from one of the loggers. I contacted the exporter who then contacted the shipping company. And, he was able to, check out the temperature because it was increasing and, within a few hours or so it sorted out the issue. And, we could see the temperature decreasing, which was good. So I think that's, definitely one of the advantages of using these real time logges, and that's also a practical example. Right. I think that's pretty much it for me, Mark. thank you very much for your time this afternoon. If there's any questions or comments, I'm happy to take them, and obviously some more information available here that Mark has mentioned about previously. So I'll hand it back to you Mark.
Fantastic. Thanks Glen. I do, I have a question just to start off, while we're waiting, if there's any questions that might come through. You've got one more year of the project so you're working with stonefruit or summer fruit and table grapes. Is there an opportunity for people to get involved with your project for this last 12 months?
yeah. Sure. I mean we're happy to talk to any of the industries, especially about temperature monitoring and potentially, helping to work with them to monitor, some export shipments in the future.
I've got a few more. Has the, I mean, you're talking about, real time data. has it been used domestically at all? You're aware of anything that way?
Yeah, I do believe they're using it domestically. maybe in other industries like meat and seafood, but, Other than that, not, I'm not a hundred percent sure, but, it's, it's definitely got the capability for using locally and domestically. and even to say New Zealand or something,
Okay. just, just on the summer fruit, shipping, just to touch base on that again because we talked about this some time ago. What sort of things did you see around, around shipping? What did realtime provide from a shipping perspective? I guess the, the main, thing that we've saw from the shipping monitoring that we've done is the actual time that it's taking for the sea freight containers to arrive in the importers, overseas. And it's taking roughly four weeks, which is a bit longer than a lot of what growers and exporters originally thought.
NoeI Ainsworth, says, I'm aware that a number of avocado domestic and export businesses are now monitoring temperature more closely. thanks, Noel, that's fabulous.
So from Andrew McNish, nice presentation Glenn. Are reusable log is available and more cost effective, or are they just a single trip?
Thanks for the, question, Andrew, yes, the loggers that I presented today, are single use loggers, I guess, cause the battery life is, 60 to 90 days. But there are other loggers within those brands that are reusable. But I guess the only thing to, to think about there is they will work better in a closed loop export supply chain. So, depending on the relationship, between you and the importer, well then, it will be easier to get those reusable loggers back.
Great. Another question from Noel. Glenn, do you think temperature monitoring is more important when using air or sea freight?
Well, we've seen from the monitoring over the last few years that the sea freight is generally very good temperature's, very low, you know, zero to two degrees for the whole trip. There was only a few, maybe small increases in temperature around trans shipping and unloading, but air freight is, obviously a shorter timeframe, but that's where we're seeing larger spikes in temperature, and it can be up to 10 or 12 degrees, but yeah, just for a short period of time.
Video: Research monitoring temperature in sea freight and air freight.
Presentation from Stonefruit Research Roadshow August 2019: Observations from monitoring sea and airfreight.
This project is looking at exports to Asian markets and in particular we are looking at China. Well, we've been monitoring the cool chain for stonefruit from the pack house in Victoria to the export markets in China and also to some other countries, Singapore and Malaysia.
Well, the information that we're gathering from the temperature monitoring is feeding into these DAT models, the decision aid tools and we are testing different mature fruit at different temperatures to see what effect it has on shelf life and quality, and also on ripening. Different issues between sea freight and airfreight. Sea freight is a longer time at a lower temperature, which is is good. For airfreight, it's a higher temperature for a shorter time, but then you have a longer shelf life period in the export markets. The kill zone for stone fruit is between three degrees and eight degrees, and every time the temperature of the fruit goes up and down between this zone, it can affect the quality and the shelf life of the fruit. The stone fruit market opened up to China, two or three years ago, and for the quarantine treatment, it's a cold treatment for sea freight, roughly two degrees for three weeks. The fruit is in transit for between 24 to 29 days and this appears to be a lot longer than a lot of the exporters anticipated. Generally, the temperatures are very good, between zero and two degrees, but the issue is the length of time that it takes to get to the market. Well, generally, the shelf life of stone fruit is somewhere between two to three, maybe four weeks. So the longer the sea freight just means that there's less time for the fruit to be in market at the other end. So the quality won't be as good.
The importers are requesting the growers to harvest fruit at six to eight kilograms of firmness, and it's a little immature, but it helps to withstand the long transit times of the sea freight. The main impact of harvesting stone fruit at high firmness is that some fruit may not ripen to its full potential, and that way the consumer is not experiencing the best quality fruit.
Well, we are monitoring the air freight for stone fruit to China and to Singapore and Malaysia. There is a methyl bromide treatment of a set rate, 18 grams per cubic metre for a set time, five and a half hours, and that's to satisfy the Chinese quarantine procedures. The main issue with air freight is probably higher temperatures, but only for a short time, maybe up to 10, 11, 12 degrees, but it is only for a short time.
The Serviced Supply Chains project is funded by the Hort Frontiers Asian markets Fund, part of the Hort Frontiers Asian strategic partnership initiative developed by Hort Innovation, with co-investment from Agriculture Victoria, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland (DAFQ), Montague Fresh (summerfruit), Manbulloo (mangoes), Glen Grove (citrus), the Australian Government plus in-kind support from University of Queensland and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.