SEATTLE, WA – When a new technology hits the market in our industry, the big question is: Will this just add to the costs on our income statement, and what exactly is the ROI? Fair, very fair—especially during a moment in time when inflation is a constant concern and the cost of doing business only seems to rise. Whether it’s technology improving the cold chain, impacting harvest efficiencies, irrigation, shelf-life, or any of the many different innovations happening on the supply-side, this concern is a mainstay during times of economic instability.
When an industry friend told me about RipeLocker, a company dedicated to preserving and extending the shelf-life of fresh produce and florals, you could most definitely say my curiosity was piqued.
“Using dynamic, low-atmosphere containers,
RipeLocker can extend a crop’s after-harvest life by weeks, and often months. Not only that, but longer-term, the technology can even extend a season far past traditional competitor’s seasons, giving them an edge on demand and availability,” George Lobisser, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the company, told me over an early morning call from his Bainbridge Island, Washington, office. “This means that grower/packer/shippers reduce food loss and consumers benefit from a better taste, longer shelf-life, and seasonal availability.”
In addition, the hypobaric chambers for storage and transport can help growers and packers realize better margins in foreign markets, like Asia.
Part of the technology to achieve these feats is RipeLockers can create lower O2 and higher CO2 environments than non-vacuum containers to slow respiration, yet avoid perishables going anaerobic.
“Take a look at this blueberry shipment we tracked a few years back. Organic blueberries were harvested on May 19 of that year and loaded in RipeLockers in Mexico. RipeLockers were driven to the Los Angeles port on May 30 and loaded onto a ship. RipeLockers were on the ocean for 63 days in a refrigerated intermodal reefer and opened on July 30 in Hong Kong. The fruit was under vacuum for a total of 71 days,” George tells me. “The taste, texture, everything was still present.”
So how do these lockers fit, quite literally, into currently existing programs? RipeLockers are stackable and movable with a forklift, with 40 units fitting in a reefer/truck. They easily move through logistics chains, for example from a warehouse to a truck to a ship.
“The great part is they utilize the existing cold chain (no refrigeration in units), and no supplemental humidification is needed. We know growers and packers are looking for more cost-effective solutions, and this program is scalable and mass-produced in high volume,” George details.
In addition, data is collected and analyzed in real-time to predict and warn customers of changes to the health of perishables stored inside to potentially avoid total loss. This kind of dynamic system allows for the internal environment to automatically stay in-bounds, even with the changes in the surrounding atmosphere.
While our call went for nearly an hour, I am afraid this page cannot. But I can tell you this is one technology worth looking into, for the health of your product and your company.