Continuous research on remote fruit quality monitoring

After completing the Intelligent Container project, IMSAS and ATB carried out several follow-up projects for improving the transport and storage conditions of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Fruity Twins project starts in September 2023 to control the amount of condensation on apples during cold storage by Digital Twins.

The DyNatCool project develops optimal refrigeration concepts based on alternative refrigerants.

Air flow patterns in cold storage rooms were analysed by new sensors during the Cool project. Large energy savings are possible by adaptively reducing ventilation speed.

Further former projects included the Analysis of spatial temperature deviations by sensor networks , as well as the detection of ethylene and fungi spores.

The original Intelligent Container project is in focus of this webpage, which will be updated stepwise. For newest results please refer to the publications section.

The 'The intelligent container' project

One third of world-wide food production does not arrive at the consumer in an acceptable state. A major portion of these losses is due to variation in environmental conditions during the cold chain. A continuous temperature monitoring from farm to fork is only partially implemented. Telematics units only provide temperature measurements from the cooling unit, but not product temperature. Barcode and RFID scanners can only trace delivery routes, not product quality.

Due to various reasons, deviations in the quality of food products cannot be avoided; for example, different harvest conditions, harvest-to-cooling time and deviating transport temperatures. Augmenting standard tracking and tracing systems with additional quality monitoring enables new strategies for transport and warehouse management.

These deviations in product quality can be compensated for by intelligent stock rotation under the condition that the remaining shelf life is known for each item. The First Expired First Out (dynamic FEFO) strategy is based on the following principle: Items with low remaining shelf life should be delivered as fast as possible to retailers in close vicinity, whereas items with high remaining shelf life should be held back for later deliveries, or deliveries to remote customers.

In order to integrate such new approaches into existing logistic processes, we developed required sensor technology and implemented them practically in a project consortium with 21 partners form industry and research with the following objectives:

  • Improvement of the traceability of food by autonomous monitoring of food quality
  • Reduction of food losses by  dynamic FEFO in practical applications
  • Development of shelf life models to predict quality changes as function of temperature
  • Prototype implementation and field tests of the ‘intelligent container’

The project was funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) over three years (July 2010 to June 2013) under the reference number 01IA10001. The first follow-up project started in October 2013, further projects are in preparation.

[Continue with project results or Video presentation]

Brochure pdf (20 pages)