Major temperature differences in reefer containers cause lots of problems for fruit importers and exporters. As a result of the temperature difference some of the fruit can no longer be sold and exporters receive many insurance claims. The OTFLOW product was introduced to the market in January 2018, an air distribution mat that reduces the temperature difference between the warmest and coolest areas in the reefer container by 30%. This means fewer insurance claims for the fruit exporter and less spoilage (and food waste) for the fruit importer.
40% of insurance claims in the fruit trade are caused by a temperature difference. Otto de Groot, founder of the Rotterdam OTFLOW business, came up with the idea of covering the floor of the container and developed the product in association with Wageningen University & Research. Ronald Hagenstein, co-owner of OTFLOW, was approached to introduce this revolutionary product to market. Research by Wageningen University & Research revealed that the trapeze shape of the reefer mat is the most efficient floor covering for transporting pallets in refrigerated containers.
How does OTFLOW work?
Combating food waste
Now that fruit is transported on pallets instead of boxes, the airflow escapes between the pallets, which creates ‘hotspots’ due to heat from the outside. “The hotspots in a reefer container are mainly created near the doors and are caused by factors such as ambient temperature – especially around the equator – and in containers that stand on the lower deck”, explains Hagenstein. The first pallets of fruit are regularly discarded, because the quality is poor as a result of the temperature difference. “Importers benefit from a homogeneous product. Because OTFLOW ensures an optimal airflow the quality of the fruit throughout the container is equal and this combats food waste.”
Hagenstein recounts a piece of history. “The first OTFLOWS were cut by hand in a small barn by myself and Marc Reym, co-owner of OTFLOW. Initially the reefer mat consisted of one long section, which you could roll out in the container. It proved to be extremely vulnerable, because the forklift truck drove over the material multiple times carrying heavy pallets.”
Marc Reym, with his technical background, played an important part in making the production more professional. “We now use an advanced machine, with which we can produce dozens of mats a day (we made six in eight hours by hand). The product is installed in the reefers in a modular fashion. This makes the reefer mat suitable for all loading patterns and pallet formats. Since OTFLOW is intended for one-off usage, we opted for recycled material originating from the food industry”, explains Hagenstein.
'Because OTFLOW ensures an optimal airflow the quality of the fruit throughout the container is equal and this combats food waste.'Co-owner of OTFLOW
The workshop occupies a central location in Hellevoetsluis. Close to customers in the Port of Rotterdam, where the fruit arrives. According to Hagenstein it’s the ideal base. “Many of our customers are in Westland and Barendrecht. As we are located near the Port of Rotterdam, we can easily see the condition of the imported fruit.”
In the future, Hagenstein sees opportunities for applying OTFLOW to reefer transport for multiple goods, besides fruit. “Currently, our main focus is on fruit transport, but we have also been asked to apply the reefer mat to transport flower bulbs. What’s more, we see possibilities for the transport of, for example, meat, dairy, fish, medicines and cosmetics. Even sneaker transport is interesting for us. Sneakers are increasingly being transported in reefers, because high temperatures causes the adhesive to come away.”
Scaling up production locations
Today, fifty companies in the fruit and vegetable industry use OTFLOW and the production takes place in Hellevoetsluis. Hagenstein: “Our ambition is to scale up to multiple production locations worldwide. It would allow us to respond to demand from our international customers more quickly and effectively.”
Want to know more?
Want to know more about OTFLOW?
Curious about how other innovations are making agrilogistics even more sustainable and efficient.
Read the article about innovation in food transport.