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Fine-Tuning Temperature Settings: Enhancing Fresh Produce Transportation

Published on
June 3, 2024
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Darion Pacocha

About 25% of all food products transported in the temperature-controlled supply chain globally go to waste each year “due to breaches in integrity leading to fluctuations in temperature and product degradation,” according to the International Fresh Produce Association. Obviously, transporting fresh produce while maintaining premium quality remains a critical challenge in the logistics industry. As a leading third-party logistics provider skilled in precise temperature control in fresh produce and perishables shipping, VCPB Transportation is up for the challenge.

A Fresh Take on Temperature Control in Fresh Produce Transportation

Maintaining optimal temperature settings during transportation is essential to preserve the quality and extend the shelf life of fresh produce. Even slight temperature deviations can lead to significant losses, affecting both suppliers and consumers.

Temperature-controlled fresh produce transportation is not only a critical operation, it’s a complicated one. “The Cold Chain and its Logistics,” said temperature-controlled shipping involves science, technology, and process.

“It is a science since it requires an understanding of the chemical and biological processes linked with perishability. It is a technology since it relies on physical means to ensure appropriate temperature conditions along the supply chain. It is a process since a series of tasks must be performed to prepare, store, transport, and monitor temperature-sensitive products,” the guide, part of “The Geography of Transport Systems,” said.

Most fresh produce shippers don’t employ scientists, tech experts, or process engineers. Instead, shippers can leave the science, technology, and processes surrounding temperature-controlled produce transportation to the experts at VCPB.

Optimal Temperature Settings for Different Produce Types

There are specific temperature guidelines for every type of fruit and vegetable, from asparagus to zucchini. Lettuce, for example, needs to remain at a temperature between 34 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent wilting.

Or leave the specificities of shipping conditions to VCPB Transportation because we know produce. The VCPB team knows the ideal temperature ranges for apples, blueberries, and grapes are 32-34 degrees, 36-40 degrees for cantaloupes, tomatoes at 48-58 degrees depending on their color, and 50-59 degrees for avocados depending on the time of year. But you don’t need to remember those temperature ranges if you trust VCPB to handle your fresh produce shipping.  

The Role of Humidity and Airflow in Temperature-Controlled Transport

As we said, temperature-controlled shipping of fresh produce is complicated. That includes the important role played by relative humidity, with recommended percentages varying according to the type of produce.

“High relative humidity helps fresh produce retain its weight, appearance, nutritional quality, and flavor,” a produce transportation guide said. “On the opposite end, low relative humidity leads to higher transpiration rates — the loss of water from the produce — resulting in mold, bacteria, wilting, softening, and reduced juiciness. No one wants dry oranges, shriveled grapes, wilted lettuce, etc.”

The guide reiterated that “temperature and relative humidity during produce transportation are two of the most critical factors in maintaining the quality and safety of fresh produce freight. Temperature affects the rate of respiration, ethylene production, and spoilage. Relative humidity affects the moisture content of produce, which can affect its texture, appearance, and shelf life.”

Understanding the mechanics of reefer container and trailer airflow is also crucial in temperature-controlled shipping, according to GP Storage Containers.

“Airflow within reefer containers isn’t just about cooling or heating; it’s about ensuring uniformity across all products stored inside,” GP Storage Containers said. “Without optimal airflow, we could see a significant compromise in product integrity, especially when dealing with perishable items like foodstuffs.”

It said that reefer units’ “complex air distribution systems require an understanding beyond basic refrigeration principles. They’re carefully engineered environments where every detail matters, from humidity control to precise temperature settings.”

Shippers don’t need to worry about engineered environments and can focus on what matters most to them — their fresh produce — if they trust their temperature-controlled shipping to VCPB Transportation.

Challenges and Solutions in Temperature-Controlled Fresh Produce Transportation

Food Logistics magazine said because fresh products are shipped at various temperatures and humidity levels, “produce transport can’t be a one-size-fits-all operation. A deviation of just a few degrees can spoil the product, resulting in empty shelves and financial losses.”

The right transportation partner “provides more than just a truck and trailer or trucking brokerage services to move product. Their experienced team will know the specific requirements needed, based on the product, to move each load safely. Those requirements and all relevant information for loading and delivery will be clearly communicated to their pre-vetted drivers who have that same product knowledge. Together, the drivers and logistics and operations team will work in concert to meet those needs and make adjustments throughout transport.”

The right partner also reacts quickly when unforeseen circumstances occur, Food Logistics said. “The clock on fresh produce’s shelf life does not stop ticking if a truck breaks down. In an emergency situation where cold chain products must be moved onto a dry cross-dock, it is pivotal to have an established cross-country network of carriers available to step in and take over before spoilage occurs.”

Food Logistics added that a dependable transportation partner that provides “24/7 tracking is key to remaining competitive in the food industry, building customer trust, and meeting high throughput times for a wide variety of peak produce.”

It concluded that “moving fresh produce in a high-paced market is a complex challenge that requires seamless and simultaneous functioning across the entire supply chain to ensure perishable freight reaches its destination in optimal condition. With the help of a reliable logistics partner, shoppers never have to miss out on their favorite produce.”

At VCPB Transportation, we have a basketful of solutions specifically tailored to the shipping of fresh produce. We are that dependable logistics partner that provides 24/7 tracking, quickly reacts if something goes wrong, and never delivers one-size-fits-all service.  

Advanced Technologies in Temperature-Controlled Shipping

An Australian company, Cannon Logistics, said technological advancements have revolutionized the way fresh produce is transported, ensuring it arrives at its destination with optimal freshness and quality. It said those advancements include:

  • Real-time monitoring and sensor technologies. “These technologies provide valuable insights into temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors that directly impact the freshness and quality of the produce,” Cannon said. “Integrated sensors within shipping containers or vehicles continuously monitor and transmit data, enabling timely intervention if any deviations occur. By closely monitoring these conditions, stakeholders can take immediate action to maintain the ideal environment for the produce, preventing spoilage, ensuring freshness, and maintaining margins.”
  • Cold chain management solutions. “Automated systems equipped with temperature sensors, remote monitoring capabilities, and real-time alerts help ensure that produce remains within the desired temperature range at all times,” it said.
  • GPS tracking and route optimization. Route optimization algorithms take into account factors including traffic conditions, weather, and delivery schedules. By optimizing routes, logistics companies can reduce transit time, minimize handling, and improve efficiency, ultimately preserving the freshness of shippers’ produce.
  • Data analytics and predictive analytics. Cannon said by analyzing historical and real-time data, logistics providers “can identify patterns, predict potential issues, and proactively take preventive measures. Predictive analytics models can forecast optimal storage conditions, estimate shelf life, and recommend appropriate transport routes.”

These technological innovations have been put into practice beyond Australia. At VCPB Transportation, headquartered in Secaucus, New Jersey, we utilize advanced technology every day to deliver produce at its ultimate freshness.

Trust VCPB Transportation With Your Fresh Produce

We wholeheartedly agree with Cannon’s assessment that “technology has become a game-changer in the realm of fresh produce transportation, offering innovative solutions that significantly contribute to maintaining freshness and quality. As technology continues to evolve, the journey of fresh produce will become more efficient, sustainable, and reliable, ensuring that every bite is a delight for consumers worldwide.”

At VCPB Transportation, we are committed to remaining at the forefront of technological advancements in the shipping of fresh produce. We are keenly aware that moving fresh produce is one of the most delicate and urgent tasks in transportation. We work tirelessly to make sure your fresh produce arrives in excellent condition every time with our technology-powered temperature controls, real-time tracking, and 24/7/365 service.

At VCPB, in addition to fresh produce and perishables, we’re experts at over-the-road, intermodal, overweight and oversized, drayage management, cross-border moves, and transloading.

Start shipping with VCPB Transportation today.        

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