Real-Time Fresh Data (DIRECT)

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Real-Time Fresh Data (DIRECT)

Key Objective

To facilitate the realisation of a data space enabling food system stakeholders using data along the food chain and to promote the circular economy through the use of smart RTIs for transporting fruit and vegetables.

Challenge Addressed

  • Connecting stakeholders along the supply chain to exchange data about produce and environmental conditions.
  • Limited use of interoperable ICT systems
  • Dynamically changing supplier-customer relations along the overall chain

Type of Stakeholders

Famers, food processors and manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, consumers, food banks.
Case Study Acronym: DIRECT
Long Title of the Case Study: Real-Time Fresh Data:
Data driven innovation and data reuse along the European fresh produce chain from farm to fork
Case Study Main Contact:

Euro Pool System:
Christian Schmidt,
ATB Institute for Applied Systems Technology Bremen GmbH:
Harald Sundmaeker

Countries involved and main place of the Case Study:

Main Place: Germany

Logistics Services of Euro Pool System are provided in 27 EU countries

Part of the Food System addressed: The case includes the overall supply chain from farm to fork, also with circular aspects with respect to Returnable Transport Items (RTI). Specifically addressing (1) production, (2) logistics, (3) processing or manufacturing, (4) retail, (5) consumption, and (6) Waste management as well as (7) return logistics of the RTIs.

Case Study Summary

Fruits and vegetables have the highest wastage rates of any food product (close to 50%). The short life-span/shelf life of fresh produce imposes high demand on properly matching supply and demand as well as on helping consumers pick produce according to their consumption patterns. In addition, dynamic environmental conditions are changing potential shelf-life and a simple visual inspection is limited when assessing the quality of produce and its remaining shelf life.

An early systemic innovation along the fruits and vegetables chain was the introduction of returnable trade items (RTIs) – foldable boxes that circulate in the food chain, being washed after usage and being continuously reused over many years. Euro Pool System is operating an open pool with over 200 Mio. boxes, outperforming cardboard and wooden boxes in terms of sustainability (e.g. resource usage vs. usage cycles, ability to recycle box material, CO2 footprint by transporting empty boxes in foldable state), while properly fulfilling the demands in accordance to HACCP. Therefore, representing a sustainable reusable and recyclable primary packaging, avoiding one-way packaging types by 100%.

RTIs have been bridging the gap between producers and consumers however data and information exchanges challenges still exist. 
EPS, ATB and additional partners have been working on smart boxes which create digital twins and suggest the possibility of collecting, aggregating and analyzing huge amounts of data. 
The Case Study will explore how to facilitate the enhancement of the data space so that food system stakeholders could properly use, reuse and redistribute data in a safe, fair, cost effective way.  

Motivation and key expected Outcome

The motivation of the Case Study is to better understand the barriers, opportunities, regulatory conditions in different EU settings that will facilitate data exchange and improve RTI based systems. 
The key expected outcomes are to use data to:

  • Improve value chain logistics
  • Enhance food quality
  • Reduce food waste
  • Minimize negative environmental effects of food transportation
  • Enable the collection and distribution of more customer relevant information
  • Contribute to better tracking and tracing of food products

Main Partners of the Case Study

EuroPoolSystem International
Logistic Service Provider, renting Returnable Trade Items (RTIs)

Contact: Christian Schmidt

ATB Institute for Applied Systems Technology Bremen GmbH
Research partner and provider of ICT/IoT based solutions

Contact: Harald Sundmaeker

Other Stakeholders involved in the Case Study realisation, but not direct project partners

The case study will select main supply chains with specific countries of origin and countries to supply the fruit and vegetables. Examples can be Spain-Netherlands or Italy-Germany. The case study aims to involve specific farmer associations, wholesalers or also distribution centres of large retail to discuss infrastructural requirements and end-user needs for a data economy in the food system. Depending on the retailers’ expectations and potentials to provide data to consumers, it will be investigated when to ask related consumers groups about their needs and expectations with respect to a sustainable and climate aware fruit and vegetables chain.

Addressing the
Food Value Chain

The case includes the overall supply chain from farm to fork, also with circular aspects with respect to Returnable Transport Items (RTI). Farmers are using the RTIs during harvest, offering the potential for combining produce data with the transport unit that has a unique identification. Logistic service providers are realising transport, storage, aggregation and disaggregation of produce put in RTIs. Especially food processors or manufacturers could receive data about produce provenance and real time status, facilitating quality check and short term production planning. The retailers can use general and real-time data about the produce to be sold, facilitating sales campaigns as well as back-store management. Finally, waste management, might make use of additional information to optimise rerouting of produce according to food availability and remaining shelf-life. The return logistics can also learn from real time data, to optimise planning of cleaning the boxes and balancing of boxes in between the depots of Euro Pool System to avoid issues with availability of washed boxes specifically in high season.

Cross collaboration
with other Projects or Initiatives

Euro Pool System and ATB will make use of achievements realised in the project FriDa that is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The FriDa project implemented a data exchange platform that could be used as a basic building block for the exchange of data along the food chain.

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