So, the last TGIF ‘How is Silicon Valley and a Strawberry connected by the cold chain?’. Well, all was revealed when I gave my presentation to the TLR family on March the 16th. It promoted a lot of interest which I didn’t expect to be honest, so I figured I’d let you all know about it too and share my story!
After doing my degree in Argo engineering, I knew that I wanted to do something in an industry that really does solve problems. I was lucky enough to work for 2 years at the University of South Florida USA on awesome projects involving companies such as Walmart and the US Department of Defense. This then led me to complete a PHD in Spain where I spent 6 months in China which was an incredible experience! I met so many amazing people and admittedly drank quite a bit of Baijiu (a rather potent Chinese alcoholic beverage!). Thanks to my time spent in China, I achieved my goal of working for an amazing company, working in an industry that I’m really passionate about, the cold chain industry!
This still doesn’t explain how Silicon Valley is linked to a strawberry, right?! Basically, I now work for a tech start-up company which is located in the Silicon Valley, and the company’s goal is to improve the cold chain process and therefore reduce food waste! Allow me to explain more about the cold chain process as I know it’s not clear what exactly this is or what it involves…
The cold chain refers to all the fruit (including strawberries!), vegetables, fish, bread, packaged salads and fresh meals that rely on refrigerated supply chains to bring these perishable goods to our shelves quickly, and in the best possible condition. The main thing to remember, an unbroken cold chain leads to foods that maintain shelf life and avoids waste.
When we walk into a supermarket, we rarely think about where the products actually come from and how they physically got there. However, it’s quite a journey they undertake and many things can go wrong along the way!
In fact, a huge 33% of the food produced for human consumption is being completely wasted. Which means that a lot of money is being thrown down the drain. This waste is basically created by human error, so by implementing new tech solutions we can dramatically improve the efficiency of the cold chain and reduce the waste.
This is where I come in, I work to improve the cold chain by trying to reduce the impact of different factors, like the time and the temperature of the product from the start of the chain until the end. Maintaining the correct temperature of the products is one of the main challenges in the cold chain process. If the temperatures are too low this will have a detrimental effect on products, causing chilling or freezing damage. However, if the temperatures are too high, this will drastically reduce shelf life. Controlled conditions are not being maintained throughout the whole cold chain journey, leading to 8% waste from the growers and distribution, 11% waste produced by retailers and 14% waste from the consumers (us!).
The shocking facts:
- Each year the average family of four loses $1500 on food never eaten
- Average American wastes 9 Kg of food per month
- 1/3 of the wasted food could feed 50 million people per year
- 500 grams of cheese wasted is equal to 135 shower minutes
- 500 grams of meat wasted is equal to 411 shower minutes
9 ways to avoid this waste!
- Use the drawers in the refrigerator. The salad drawers are there for a reason, they are temperature controlled, use them!
- Do not store things like lemons with lettuce as they have a different temperature requirement.
- Use the refrigerator door for sauces and things with a longer shelf life.
- Too much bread or fruit? Slice it and freeze it!
- Place Green veggies in water when they are wilting or soft, this brings them back to life and they’re as good as new again!
- Remove the plastic containers from fruit and vegetables, they are not meant to be stored in these containers!
- Store your cheese in the wax paper, it keeps for longer.
- Buy Ugly! Look for the ugly vegetable section in the supermarket, they taste just as good and are often cheaper!
- Don’t trust yogurt expiration dates, they lie. Yogurt lasts for a lot longer than the expiration date, don’t throw it away just because the date says so!
After getting his Agro engineering degree in Madrid, he knew that he wanted to do something applied to an industry that really solves problems. He learned many interesting things about wireless sensors applied to food storage whilst on an internship at the end of his university course. Then, not being able to find a job in Spain and by being in the right place at the right time he got the opportunity to work at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. USA. He spent more than 2 years working here on awesome projects involving companies and retailers such as Walmart and the US Department of Defense. After this he got the opportunity to do a Ph.D. in Spain where he got to spend 6 months in China, meeting incredible people which led to a boost in his professional career. Thanks to that experience and the contacts he made, he achieved his goal working for a great company and doing what he loves to do, working in the cold chain industry! For the moment at least he is with us here in Spain, but this not the end, just another step in his journey.