Using smart trackers to monitor cherry exports

Monitoring ambient temperatures in export consignments for fresh cherries has never been easier, thanks to the development in real-time data loggers over the past five to ten years.

Now, data is readily available 24/7 from anywhere in the world, provided there is cellular connectivity. These small, compact, yet powerful devices, cost approximately $75 each, and come with a built in SIM-card with global network coverage which means the logger location can be fully tracked during road, sea or air freight from anywhere in Australia to export markets.

Data is easily visible through logger portals on dashboards or online applications so that if a temperature alert is triggered, then users may be able to rectify the problem before it is too late.

Some of these Smart trackers can be used in air freight as they have a ‘flight mode’ function that is automatically activated when they pass through a ‘geo-fence’ around airports or an accelerometer within the unit that detects rapid changes in speed or height upon take-off. Other loggers need to be manually programmed prior to airline departure. Data continues to be recorded during the flight and will be transmitted later when it reconnects to the mobile network after leaving the destination airport.

Location, temperature and light sensors come standard on these devices whereas sensors for humidity, shock or vibration, and an external probe for measuring pulp temperatures (1m cable) or different positions within a consignment (15m cable) are optional extras.

The light sensor is particularly useful to determine when fruit cartons or air freight containers have been opened either during quarantine inspections or for other security reasons such as tamper detection. Another advantage of these real-time loggers is that data can be accessed on smart phones, tablets or desktop computers and analysed in seconds.

This will help to make all links more accountable by minimising any temperature spikes or delays. Pre-programming location alerts to users via email or text to inform links further down the supply chain (e.g. freight forwarders or treatment providers) of when produce will arrive, can also be useful.

“The loggers are really helpful to identify weak points in the cool chain along the journey and ultimately will improve the quality of fruit over time that we deliver into these export markets,” said Michael Rouget CEO of Koala Cherries.

Over the past two years, Agriculture Victoria Research has been trialling different brands of real-time data loggers (e.g., Emerson, Fresh Key, Frigga, Sensitech, Tive etc.) and have successfully monitored over 25 cherry consignments that were sent by air to Asian markets to help improve product quality and reduce waste for Victorian exporters.

This project is funded by the Agriculture Policy’s Export Development and Investment Strategy through the Growing Food and Fibre Markets program.

By Glenn Hale and John Lopresti. Glenn Hale is a horticultural scientist at Agriculture Victoria Research, AgriBio Centre in Melbourne, together with senior postharvest physiologist (horticulture), John Lopresti. For more information contact: glenn.hale@agriculture.vic.gov.au

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