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Smart food trays have become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic

The consequences of COVID-19 are enormous. Not only the healthcare sector has been put under major pressure but also the consequences for the whole food production chain are massive. The IoF2020 Use Case 3.4 Intelligent Fruit Logistics faces different COVID-19 related challenges. First of all, there is a lack of harvest support. As a result of closed borders and travel restrictions, seasonal workers can’t support harvesting activities. Consequently, crops cannot be harvested, crops stand on the land much longer than normal and food waste has increased. Second, difficulties in the transport business arose. Many truck drivers fall into corona risk groups and were therefore not able to work. This resulted in a shortage of transporters, which had enormous consequences for delivery times and capacity possibilities. Third, customer demands have changed. When the lockdown started, people started to hoard products and the consumer demands for non-perishable products increased.

The usual work of UC 3.4 consists of the implementation of a simple traceability system. Since June 2018, over 200 smart food trays were installed to monitor fresh food supply chains of involved costumers. This technology makes it possible to collected information on the supply chain (i.a. location, temperature and speed of the supply chain). For example, it monitors where trays are moving faster or slower than normal and where trays standstill or not. This information enlarges the visibility along the customers food supply chain.

During the corona pandemic, the work of UC 3.4 has become even more important. By comparing data of involved customers from before and during the corona crisis deviations in the food production chain can be identified. For example, in retail differences in the speed of the supply chain where observed. In December (during Christmas) the average speed of the supply chain was 10 days, in March (during the beginning of the lockdown) the average speed was 3 days and currently, the average speed is 7 days. This example shows the potential to make these dynamic changes in the food production chain visible. However, to show the bigger picture and to use the full potential of UC 3.4, there is a need for upscaling of the numbers of smart trays. A joint approach is needed, to interpret the data together with different stakeholders. By working together we can identify what is happening with our food supply chain, we can identify bottlenecks and we can think about solutions to overcome these challenges and improve efficiency, circularity and sustainability of the supply network. Now and after the corona pandemic! 


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