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AgroFresh Solutions Lead to Longer-Lasting Produce

The agtech innovator is celebrating the 20-year anniversary of its flagship product, SmartFresh, which extends the shelf life and maintains quality of fresh produce, reducing food waste across the supply chain.

When it comes to increasing sustainability for the entire fresh produce supply chain while also maximizing profits, some of the most crucial factors are freshness, quality, shelf life and minimizing food waste. It is in these post-harvest areas that agtech innovator AgroFresh has been a global leader for the past four decades, offering a comprehensive portfolio of products and solutions that help everyone from growers to importers to grocers.

“Our core mission is to reduce food loss and waste and to ensure an abundant supply of fresh quality produce,” says Duncan Aust, chief technology officer at AgroFresh. “We do this by providing a range of science-based solutions, data-driven digital technologies and high-touch customer services that support growers, packers and retailers across the supply chain to enhance the quality and extend the shelf life of fresh produce.

“AgroFresh invests a lot of time, financial resources and human power into coming up with innovative solutions to continue to improve the future of the produce industry and support our customer’s business, while stewarding our planet’s natural resources and creating access to the most nutritious, better-tasting, longer-lasting produce.”

In 2023, the Philadelphia-based organization is celebrating the 20-year anniversary of SmartFresh (1-MCP), the industry-leading ethylene management solution. Ethylene is the natural plant hormone that governs the speed at which quality and freshness are lost. Keeping produce fresh is especially important during storage and transport because ethylene-rich environments can trigger the ripening process too quickly, which results in spoilage and waste.

“SmartFresh slows down that ripening process, allowing for extended shelf life and the maintenance of quality during storage, transit and packing,” explains Aust. “The benefits of this technology now span the globe serving multiple crops and regions, and is used in more than 25,000 storage rooms.”

AgroFresh has expanded beyond SmartFresh to offer additional near and post-harvest freshness solutions, including a full portfolio of plant-based coatings and fungal decay prevention offerings. The company went digital in 2018 with the release of FreshCloud, its insights and analytics platform to help growers, packers and shippers digitize the quality inspection process. All of these post-harvest solutions are intended to reduce food waste, while improving sustainability and quality across the produce supply chain.

“Sustainability is what AgroFresh was built on and remains a core value in our organization. We’ve continued to evolve in our sustainability promises and help our customers meet theirs through customized solutions and innovative research partnerships to develop new post-harvest solutions that can be used in traditional and organic crops,” says Aust.

Narciso Vivot, the commercial business director of Latin America at AgroFresh, says the company continues to lead the way in the near- and post-harvest space, introducing new technologies that have had a real impact on customers’ operations and the fruit harvested. These include Harvista 1.3 SC, the ethylene and ripening management technology for apples, cherries and blueberries that is used pre-harvest to maintain quality in the field and improve economic returns; and VitaFresh Botanicals, a portfolio of plant-based coatings that act as a “second-skin” to protect fruit quality and reduce shrink through to the retail shelf.

“In certain regions where there is a lack of post-harvest solutions, we are a game-changer,” says Vivot. “In terms of sustainability, our solutions help reduce food loss and waste throughout the supply chain, which is not only important to AgroFresh, but also top of mind for our customers and their customers. We have developed packhouse solutions that reduce water usage during the post-harvest processes, as well as improved safety.”

Vivot continues: “Twenty years ago, SmartFresh transformed what was possible in the apple industry by allowing customers to deliver high-quality fruit year-round. Thanks to the expansion of SmartFresh, it’s now possible to ship avocados, mangos, limes, apples and many other products from Latin America far distances, to markets such as Asia and the Middle East.”

SmartFresh offers convenient application options, such as easy-to-use tabs and sachets to fit the needs of many types of growing and packing situations — from its full-service SmartFresh Quality System for larger operations, to convenient InBox sachets and SmartTabs for use during transit. It’s available for a variety of crops, including apples, pears, kiwifruit, mangos, tomatoes, avocados and melons.

“As we’ve experienced serious supply chain disruptions during the past several years, it has become clearer that access to a wide range of fresh produce year-round depends on the supply chain functioning smoothly,” notes Aust. “With food logistics in the spotlight, it’s imperative for the produce industry to address the challenges that arise during an elongated supply chain. Post-harvest tools have become crucial in the movement of produce and offer grocers more confidence in a quality supply throughout the year.”

As consumer demand for higher-quality, fresher produce increases, retailers in turn demand the same from growers and packers. The advantages of SmartFresh extend to retailers and consumers to improve the shelf life and quality of produce, especially when shipped long distances where it arrives in better condition.

“We want grocers to have confidence in the quality and consistency in the fresh product they receive,” says Aust. “With proper storage and post-harvest freshness solutions, fruit quality can be maintained beyond the branch — earning grocers a better value and repeat customers.”