“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change...”

– Charles Darwin

When Darwin said it, he had living beings in mind. But the adage applies to businesses too. To survive, you have to adapt to a more digitally-enabled environment. 

Digital transformation of fresh produce quality

The concept of digital transformation is not new. It’s just never been a high priority for food businesses because it sounds like a risky, expensive, and colossal initiative.

But it is more tangible than you think, particularly when it comes to quality processes. There are simple and easy-to-implement technologies that help you break the chains of legacy, get rid of manual processes of yesterday, and transition to more nimble processes. 

Normalization of quality through automation

We know fresh produce quality is complex. It has too many components that add subtleties and nuances. As a result, there are rarely normative documents that objectively specify quality specs. Moreover, because quality processes are manual, they are highly dependent on an individual’s knowledge and experience.

When the quality lacks standardized parameters and is based on an inspector’s judgment call, it oscillates. Automation overcomes this issue. With something as basic as a mobile app a quality manager can define quality parameters and a checklist of defects for the entire team and for each commodity.

So, irrespective of location or inspector, quality is assessed in the same manner. It not only creates consistent and standardized quality but also reduces errors and consequent food waste.

Harnessing the power of data

One of the thorniest challenges in food is compliance. Satisfying criteria for safety is getting harder because commodities change too many hands. And with each step, quality deteriorates. 

A simple solution is bringing more transparency. Any technology that brings traceability to the table, be it blockchain or software to digitize quality documents, helps harness the power of data. 

The goal is accurate data that guarantees the quality and hence compliance of your fresh produce at every step. For instance, sensors can track produce from field to store. It gives you a living, detailed record of where the produce came from, what defects it has, does it comply with quality criteria, etc.

Mining for trends through AI

Of all the digital transformations that have made food quality better, the most innovative is AI. Machine Learning enables data mining for actionable, achievable, and measurable objectives.  

You can run analytics on the entire supply chain or even a single shipment to determine the pain points. Analyzing the raw data delivers insight not just on suppliers but also on seasons and locations.

For instance, quality heads can learn which warehouse has better quality, which supplier quality is deteriorating, or which season produces better bananas. They can not only monitor the cost of sourcing produce but also actively work on reducing it. 

Looking at fresh produce quality through the lens of technology

Quality is like art. Everybody praises it. Everybody recognizes it. But each one has its own understanding of what it is. And that’s the crux of all the problems riddling fresh produce quality processes – human subjectivity.

Technology can address most of them. The examples we’ve spoken about above are just the tip of the iceberg. Digital transformation can do so much more. With artificial noses, packers can prevent loss due to rot. With grading data, exporters can streamline their quality. With traceability and provenance, retailers can satisfy customers.

We’ve created a complete guide on how quality teams can upgrade their processes to the 21st Century using technology. When you’re ready to take the easy, modest steps that don’t require a heavy investment, give it a try. 

Saurabh Job

Written by Saurabh Job

Global Marketing Head at Intello Labs