Talking fruits? Of course, you shouldn’t take that literally. “But it comes quite close”, jokes Joris Tenhagen CEO of Pharox. Between his thumb and index finger, he has a kind of hockey puck in his hand. Unlike the original, this electric version is jam-packed with sensors and meters: GPS, temperature, humidity, light, internet and more. It can all be integrated. All data collected by the device is automatically transferred to a platform or app. The startup in Venlo developed the system to better monitor and improve transport processes. “With our system the load talks, so to speak. It lets us know in what condition a product is loaded, or if the product becomes damp during transport. Or temperature changes on the way, too much pressure on the crates? The sensors send all this data on, so that you know exactly what condition a load of mangoes is in”, Tenhagen sums up.
With the sensors and available data, Pharox wants to improve the quality in every step of the transport process. Now monitoring is sometimes confusing, Tenhagen explains: “A cargo often goes to a destination via different carriers. Agreements are made with sub-contractors about what they are responsible for. Sometimes they have a third party with whom they collaborate, all these extra links cause you to lose overview. The chance of errors increases.” Tenhagen continues to explain with the example of mangoes. “To keep the fruits in good condition, the truck on its journey may not get too hot, for example. If it does, you will get rotten mangoes. But the problem now is often that you can’t tell where things went wrong”, Tenhagen explains. “Our system makes that clear: you can not only see in which link, but also look at the deeper cause. Was it the temperature or something else?”
According to Tenhagen, this accurate monitoring is not intended as a ‘big brother’ measure to keep an eye on the chain: “It’s not a pointed finger, this is where it goes wrong and it’s your fault. No, by analysing this data and sharing it with the relevant parties, transporters can work constructively on process improvement. There is so much data available, the variables are almost endless. If you make clever use of this, you will automatically figure out where there is room for improvement.”
Unlike other solutions available on the market, the sensors from Pharox are connected live to a platform or app. “This real-time monitoring makes it possible to take action even during transport. We send alerts in case of delays or too hot mangoes. With some products this can save lives, just think of certain medicines on which people rely. Depending on the route or the product, different alerts are possible. Afterwards, all data can be requested. For customs or insurance, but also for process improvement”, says Tenhagen. According to him, the developments are going fast and they have to be constantly improving: “IoT provides more connectivity, batteries last longer and sensors become more accurate and smaller. We cannot afford to lag behind in this. Live monitoring is just one example, sitting still is not an option”, says Tenhagen. To this end, they seek knowledge and cooperation with other parties: “Together with colleges of higher education and universities, we develop projects or set up research. We also make use of Brightlands’ network by looking at other sectors.”
Tenhagen indicates that the sensors of his company can add value not in the transport sector alone: “We also work with Customs for them, it is important to know whether a shipment has remained sealed during the journey. We can provide proof of this. We can also work with growers, where the sensors tell, among other things, whether a root gets enough water. And I could mention a few interesting examples as well.”