March 01, 2023

Challenges and new technologies in the fruits & vegetables industry


The extension of Food logistical chains requires the market to use great care when dealing with Fruit and Vegetables: they are characterised by a high degree of perishability and so they have a limited shelf-life, the preservation of the right temperature in all the stages of the cold chain is the key to ensure Food safety, and gaining an end-to-end supply chain visibility is a decisive factor to overcome hurdles and issues that might arise in its multiple stages. In this industry there is the need to employ innovative solutions for advanced monitoring to be aware of everything that happens in each step of the supply chain, to deliver fresh products and, at the selling stage, to decrease product return rates. 

After showing some data from the Fruit and Vegetables industry, we will consider its various challenges hinting at the way in which innovative technologies can be profitably used in this sector, and finally we will discuss the solutions for this business area provided by Wenda, an Italian startup supported by European investors that delivers the only cross-chain and cross-device Food Integrity Management hub, turning supply chain control from cost to advantage, improving sales, quality and logistics. 

Fruit and Vegetables industry numbers

Together with root crops and tubers, Fruit and Vegetables score the highest Food Loss and Waste rate as compared with any other product. A rate that, according to FAO figures, amounts to 45%. 

Food Losses and Waste have an uneven distribution, presenting a marked differentiation between industrialised and developing countries: in the former, Food Losses and Waste happen mainly at the final consumer level, while in the latter the stages needing improvement are the processing ones.

According to the European Statistics Handbook, a study produced by Fruit Logistica together with Fruitnet, during 2018 in Europe 46,9 million tons of fruit and 55,6 million tons of vegetables have been produced, bringing the total of the Fruit and Vegetables production to 102,5 million tons. 42% of all the vegetables are produced by Italy and Spain – industry leading Countries, followed by Poland, Netherlands and France. Tomatoes are the most important vegetables in terms of production volume, preceding onions and carrots, and amount to 31% of European production. Vegetables trade is concentrated in product flows between EU Countries, and only 13% of import comes from third Countries.

Spain and Italy lead fruit production too, an industry in which oranges and apples rule: european apple export in 2018 reached 2,47 million tons, just behind oranges (2,64 million tons). In the vast majority of EU Countries, apples are the most consumed fruit, while the top of the podium among vegetables is claimed by tomatoes. Fruit trade too is concentrated in product flows between EU Countries, but the import quota from third Countries is much higher than the vegetables section: in fact, around 40% of fruit import is originated in extra-EU Countries, among which there are Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador and South Africa.

The European Fruit and Vegetables industry is worth approximately 50 billion €, 21% of European total agriculture, with 1,4 million companies that generate a spin-off work equivalent to 150 billion € on 3% of the EU space.

In Italy, the value of Fruit and Vegetables production swings around 12 billion €, 23% of the Agrifood sector, with 462.500 companies farming one million hectares of land. One third of this area is used by producers organisations, that contribute with almost 50% both in quantity and in value of the Fruit and Vegetables industry (Data deriving from Organizzazioni di Produzione of Italia Ortofrutta – 2018).

The Fruit & Vegetable industry in Europe and in Italy (Source: FreshPlaza)

The 2018 European fruit harvest scored a 9% growth compared to last year figures, while vegetables harvest suffered a 7% decline, although data presents substantial differences when referred to different Countries and products. The most important market in the EU by far is Germany: 5,3 million tons of fruit and 3,2 million tons of vegetables have been imported in 2018, and Italy exports almost 40% of its Fruit and Vegetables.

At a global level, the two most populous Countries – India and China – represent the most interesting markets. However, mainly in China, import regulations complicate market access for European Fruit and Vegetables. Besides, in the Indian market there are many cold chain challenges, such as the lack of temperature-controlled facilities, the inadequacy of cold chain capacity, the absence of a territorial networks able to ensure cold chain stability from farmers to consumers.

As you can guess, compliance with cold chain prescriptions is one of the greatest challenges that the Fruit and Vegetables industry – not only in India – has to face, and therefore the use of innovative technologies can be a precious asset. 

Technological innovations in this industry can be ensured by big data analytics e IoT solutions, aiming to collect and analyse data, to manage them correctly and to turn them into useful information for company decisions. These technologies can be used for many purposes, such as the advanced cold chain monitoring across all the stages of the supply chain, to provide final consumers a framework for Food Safety. 

Challenges of the Fruit and Vegetables industry 

In the Fruit and Vegetables industry there are many challenges to face. Here we will shortly analyse them, to later show how an innovative technology can be profitably employed in this sector.

Food Safety and quality are the industry’s fundamental principles, since they are directly linked to people’s health. A proper and timely supply chain management, particularly when dealing with cold chains, contributes to keeping the product’s shelf-life intact, preventing deterioration, and it allows for both the improvement of efficiency levels and the decrease of product return rates from retailers and final consumers. 

Here it emerges the central role that productive efficiency plays, especially in light of the previously provided data about Fruit and Vegetables demand from India and China. On account of this steady demand growth, the Fruit and Vegetables industry needs to develop more efficient and coordinated production methods, nonetheless balancing them with sustainability and environment protection concerns. 

Fresh products supply constitutes another challenge: a growing number of new markets is emerging in different global regions (such as the Middle East). The very high level of competition implies that replenishing stocks and ensuring product quality in the right time is becoming quite difficult for farmers. Another one of the industry’s needs is to be equipped with efficient and smooth data management systems to reduce costs, save time, secure a healthy cold chain management and comply with Food Safety regulations. 

In broad lines, everybody should get access to the same data set, proceeding from one single point of departure, so that accurate and real-time information can be provided and the best course of action can be taken.

WENDA: Food Integrity Management Hub for Fruit and Vegetables supply chains 

We at Wenda, an Italian startup backed by European investors, wish to contribute with our technological innovations to solve some of the issues that arise in the Fruit and Vegetables industry. To this end, we deliver the only cross-chain and cross-device Food Integrity Management Hub, turning supply chain control from a cost to a competitive advantage. improving sales, quality and logistics. Wenda collects and analyses unstructured data from market-available data loggers employed across all stages of the supply chain, to deliver Food integrity, traceability, cold chain and shelf-life insights and to boost collaboration between all the Fruit and Vegetables supply chain players. 

Wenda’s Food Integrity Management Hub is a web platform dedicated to all the Food&Beverage players that handle or manage perishable or sensitive products, to manage Food integrity information; its implementation is very smooth, it is straightforward to use, and it is cross-chain and cross-device. Wenda Food Integrity Hub features the following :

  • Overview of integrity analytics and supply chain hazard points;
  • Differential access levels to journey data, which can be shared real-time with clients, logistics and quality departments, insurance companies, regulatory agencies;
  • In-cloud wallet to upload and share travel documents and product quality certifications, for every shipment or storage;
  • Integration and interoperability with different traceability systems and data logger, which are constantly evolving.

As a startup, Wenda was accelerated by UniCredit, Maersk, Digital Magics and Intesa Sanpaolo. 

To have further information, to know more about us or to schedule a demo of the Wenda Information Management Hub, we invite you to visit our website.