Cold chain management in horticulture

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Cold chain management in horticulture

Cold chain management in horticulture is the maintenance of perishable produce throughout transport to ensure they remain stable while on the journey to consumers, or are prepared for sales at retail outlets. It is a critical process in preserving the quality and flavor of fruits and vegetables, but cold chain management can also be used to extend the shelf life of fresh foodstuffs.

Cold chain management in agriculture is the process of keeping crops at low temperatures. Cold chain logistics in horticulture focuses on the maintenance of perishable produce throughout transport and storage in order to ensure their stability, keeping them fresh for consumption, and thus preventing potential customer complaints or rejected product. There are four levels of cold chain management used in horticulture: cold and controlled storage (2), cold transport (3), refrigerated transport (4), and ambient storage (5).


The cold chain in horticulture covers a broad range of topics including plant physiology, growth management, organic and greenhouse production, and standardization and quality management. Research is directed at the major topics of precision horticulture and precision agriculture, and the types of technologies, systems, and protocols used for precision production. The major topics of precision horticulture and precision agriculture in general include the development of new technologies for application on precision agriculture, the application of decision-support technologies to enhance crop quality and yield, and the application of plant science and chemistry to improve crop yield and quality.


It is now possible for automated agricultural platforms to access a variety of data sources that can enhance cold chain management and the customer experience. The key benefits of automation are as follows:

Improved precision, such as the ability to reduce run-time variation in greenhouses

Improved yield, such as reduced spoilage and improved drying and maturation processes

Better quality, such as the ability to monitor and store produce across all growth stages

The potential for increased automation and data sharing between countries and consumers.

Integrated cold chain systems are produced by both large and small companies. Most cold chain companies work within the field of cold chain management in horticulture, and there are cold chain management and automation systems available for the following types of business models:

Perennial crops that are grown outside the greenhouse.

Annual crops that are grown under horticulture lighting systems.

Container-grown crops.

Herbicide-treated crops.

Root vegetables that are grown in the soil.

Root vegetables that are grown in tubers.

Root vegetables that are grown in soil-less containers.

Root vegetables that are grown in soil.

Root vegetables that are grown in peat pellets.

Root vegetables that are grown in aeroponic systems.

Root vegetables that are grown on hydroponics.

Root vegetables that are grown on submerged aeroponics.

Root vegetables that are grown in geotechnical systems.

Root vegetables that are grown in soil blocks.


Sown crops.

Bare land.

Livestock farms.

Fishing ponds.

Vegetable, fruit and flower growing.


For the purpose of this guide, it is assumed that the cold chain platform and automated crops are operated at scale.

Cold chain

Cold chain systems vary in complexity, ranging from a simple sealed container to a network of hundreds or thousands of refrigerators, water heaters, or refrigeration compressors.Cold chain management companies are also known as cold chain management or cold chain services providers.

A cold chain is typically comprised of the following components:

One or more distribution hubs (e.g., wholesale or retail distribution centre) that collect produce from the grower or production process, and store them.

One or more distribution systems, which collect produce from the distribution hubs. This typically involves using containers or trailers that contain the produce.

One or more packaging/cooling systems, which are where the produce is stored.

One or more shipping lines, which transport the produce from the packaging/cooling systems to the destination.

One or more logistics systems, which are the last and longest distance from the origin or customer to the destination. This involves the final handling of the produce, such as distribution and retail distribution.

A cold chain (or cold chain logistics system) is most effectively a closed system in which all inputs and outputs are regulated. In a cold chain system, temperature is controlled at each stage in the chain. Perishable items are typically kept at temperatures between.

Cold storage (2)

Cold and controlled storage is the storage of produce in an environment that ensures the cold chain and provides protection against the risks associated with temperature fluctuations. Cold and controlled storage is considered the second level of cold chain management in horticulture.

In cold and controlled storage, produce is stored in a low-energy condition, which is in a state of equilibrium between heat and cold. This is done so that the temperature and environmental conditions of the produce is controlled to protect it against degradation, and thus it is able to maintain quality and freshness. The minimum temperature for the first stage of cold storage is.

Refrigeration (3)

Cold and controlled storage is achieved by maintaining perishable produce in a controlled environment at.

Refrigeration is defined as the process of reducing the temperature of a substance to a desired value, often by supplying a flow of cool air. It is achieved by one of four methods: direct or indirect cooling with a refrigeration cycle (including cold and ambient storage, as described below), adiabatic refrigeration, liquefaction and phase change.

Cold and controlled storage systems can be either open or closed (controlled).

Cold and controlled storage systems

Cold and controlled storage systems (which can be either open or closed) are controlled systems that reduce temperature in a controlled manner, typically maintaining foodstuffs within a predetermined temperature range, sometimes using refrigeration.

In open cold and controlled storage systems, perishable items are stored in an uncontrolled environment where temperature fluctuates or is not monitored. The temperature is recorded, but it is not managed, and is maintained at a temperature slightly above freezing, or less.


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