Fresh produce sector: facing challenges and adopting sustainable approaches

Apr 4, 2023

Fresh produce sector: facing challenges and adopting sustainable approaches

Apr 4, 2023

The fresh produce sector is a vital part of the global economy and is facing several challenges in today’s world. From environmental concerns to ethical sourcing, the industry is working to address these issues. In this blog, we will discuss some of the challenges facing the fresh produce sector and the sustainable approaches that are being taken to address them. We tap from some new developments that we observed at the latest Fruitlogistica tradeshow in Berlin.

The fresh produce sector is facing significant environmental challenges. From agricultural practices to logistics and packaging, the industry plays a vital role in addressing issues such as environmental pollution, food waste, and ethical challenges for people living in rural areas. To address these issues, several sustainable approaches are being adopted by the sector.

1.    Prolonging shelf life

The use of new products such as FruitMag, a magnesium-based preparation for citrus fruits, and the Breathway system offered by Hazel Technologies, are prolonging the shelf life of fresh produce without the use of strong chemicals. The Breathway system guarantees longer shelf life and better-looking fruits through a packaging solution that allows for better gas exchange in an environment with temperature changes, like commonly seen through export supply chains.

2.    Soil health and regenerative agriculture

Promoting soil health with practices like the addition of microbial fertilizers, organic fertilizers, and intercrop practices is also being widely adopted. Regenerative agriculture is gaining ground. It improves soil health and reverses climate change by expanding biodiversity, improving the water cycle, increasing organic matter in soil structure, and transferring carbon from the atmosphere to the soil. Proponents of regenerative agriculture avoid using chemical pesticides and advocate for methods like crop rotation, livestock rotation, composting, no-till farming and agroforestry. Regenerative agriculture increases the amount of arable topsoil, which results in a healthier, better food system.

3.    Reducing carbon footprint

Fresh pineapples at Fruit Logistica - Globally Cool

While buyers are increasingly looking for near sourcing to reduce the carbon footprint, the fresh produce sector is also switching from airfreight to sea freight to reduce the carbon footprint of the supply chain. Using data analysis tools to optimize agricultural practices like Delphy Digital’s quality management systems for optimizing crop planning, and Chillchain’s Software that provides information on where saving energy and reducing traffic emissions is possible, are also helping to reduce the carbon footprint and financial costs.

4.    Tolerant varieties

Companies like BayWa are developing new varieties that can be grown within a bigger range of climates, being especially tolerant to hotter and drier weathers. This can help to mitigate the impact of climate change on the industry and ensure a steady supply of fresh produce.

5.    Ethical sourcing

In addition to environmental challenges, the fresh produce sector is also facing ethical challenges such as fair trade practices, and ethical sourcing of products. The industry is working to address these issues through increased emphasis on social responsibility standards such as Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Grasp, and others.

Aldi Süd, one of the main discounters in Germany, has committed to paying a living wage to workers for at least 50% of the bananas sold by 2025, as part of the initiative German Retailer Working Group on Living Income and Living Wages, led by the GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation). This discounter chain is also currently working on a similar approach for pineapple to start in 2023. These changes in buying policy in Aldi Süd might have a big impact in the industry, as this is one of the main European buyers of certain categories of fresh fruits, like banana.

In conclusion, the fresh produce sector is facing several challenges, but is working towards sustainable approaches to address them. From prolonging shelf life, promoting soil health, reducing carbon footprint, to ethical sourcing, the industry is taking steps towards a sustainable future. As a business, it is important to adopt sustainable practices to not only mitigate environmental and ethical concerns, but also to ensure a steady supply of fresh produce. By working together, we can ensure a healthy and sustainable future for the industry.

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