Table grapes are economically important products in the Mediterranean region. Many factors contribute to the quality (e.g. colour, berry size and brix) of the product. Table grapes are very vulnerable to pests, their shelf-life is limited and they are easily damaged during transport. Therefore, one could say that the production of high-quality table grapes is a challenge in general. As you can imagine, during the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, the production of high-quality grapes has become even a bigger challenge!
It is interesting to take a closer look at the work of the IoF2020 Use Case 3.1 Fresh Table Grapes Chain. Which corona-related challenges do they encounter and which solutions do they foresee? Use Case 3.1 developed an IoT network which made it possible to monitor the whole table grape production chain, from field to fork. This IoT network has been used on different levels of the production chain and provides information on all the critical points in the process. These critical points include irrigation, table grapes managing, pest management and post-harvest. Over 40 sensors have been installed in 10 ha in Italy and 5 ha in Greece. By implementing this IoT network, the Use Case 3.1 aims to achieve better resource management (water, fuel and pesticide inputs) and higher fresh table grape quality. This will result in economic benefits and positive environmental impacts.
The next question we must ask ourselves is, how does COVID-19 influence the fresh Table Grape production chain? The increased travel restrictions, stricter border controls and rerouting make it more difficult for transporters to deliver their products in the same about of time. Therefore, the delivery time of fresh table grapes has increased. As a result of the increased delivery time, different challenges arise. First, the fresh table grapes have a shorter shelf-life. Second, the cool chain might be interrupted for a longer time. Third, potential temporary shortages will arise. All these challenges question the quality of the fresh table grapes.
These challenges ask for creative solutions. What does the Use Case 3.1 do to overcome these challenges and to guarantee the quality of the products? As a solution, shelf-life optimized packages (Blow ®) are used to increase the length of time that fresh table grapes can be stored. Consequently, the quality of the fresh table grapes is ensured and the fresh table grapes remain fit for use, consumption, or sale. By using these kinds of creative solutions, IoF2020 use cases ensure that the food production chain remains of high-quality standard, from food to fork. Even in these challenging times during the corona pandemic!