Combining experiments and mechanistic modeling to compare ventilated packaging types for strawberries from farm to retailer
Soft fruits like strawberries are highly perishable and susceptible to postharvest decay caused by fungal infestation. Elevated temperatures in the cold chain favor mold growth and water condensates in the packaging that is induced by temperature fluctuations at high relative humidity. Optimal packaging for these products is required to improve homogenous fruit cooling and ventilation inside the package along the entire supply chain. This study analyzed three packaging types (top sealed paperboard, open and closed plastic clamshell) through laboratory storage experiments and simulations. We tested the different packages in a climate chamber, with conditions representing an actual supply chain from farm to retailer. We evaluated the performance of these packages by quality measurements. We measured the fruit mass loss, total soluble solids and acidity content, firmness, color change, and incidence of decay. We also built physics-based models for the strawberries and packaging to gain complementary information that is difficult to quantify experimentally. These models rely on mechanistic simulations and sensor data to capture fruit’s hygrothermal and physiological evolution. To this end, we used monitored sensor data from the lab experiments as input for these physics-based digital fruit twins. We quantified in-silico the time of wetness due to condensation, respiration-driven overall fruit quality, and remaining shelf life along the simulated supply chain. Altogether, our simulation findings revealed that the top sealed paperboard packaging had the best performance in terms of respiration-dependent quality, mass loss and time of wetness. Furthermore, this package showed the least heterogeneities of fruit quality attributes inside the packaging, most likely due to the presence and position of ventilation holes. No clear differences were observed during laboratory experiments in rot incidence and traditional measured quality metrics (i.e., total soluble solids, acidity, color). Combining experiments with mechanistic modeling provides a deeper understanding of how fruit evolves in a supply chain. Also, it can capture packaging evaluating metrics, including moisture loss, time of wetness, or risk for microbial decay in a spatiotemporal manner.
Copyright (c) 2022 Thijs Defraeye, Chandrima Shrivastava, Seraina Schudel, Séverine Gabioud Rebeaud, Lena Karafka, Kanaha Shoji, Daniel Onwude
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.