The fruits of reefer tech
Thanks to advances in reefer technology, nearly every fresh commodity can reach any market all year round, no matter what the distance.
- Blueberries, once transported to global markets only by air, can now arrive in European and US markets from South America by container ship, making them more affordable and widely available.
- Seasonal produce from North and Central America, including citrus fruit, apples, avocados and asparagus can be found in markets across Middle Eastern and Asian markets.
- Russians enjoy fresh bananas from Ecuador in the middle of February. Maersk Line’s ice-class vessels carry as much as 29 million bananas every week from Guayaquil, Ecuador to St. Petersburg, Russia.
“We knew so little about refrigerated shipping back then,” says Barbara Pratt, director of refrigerated technical services for Maersk Line in North America, reflecting on her adventure inside a converted reefer container in the name of science.
“A customer would put 20,000 kilos of fresh fruit in a reefer container, send it across the Atlantic for 30 days, and the reasons for its condition upon arrival were largely unknown to us,” says Pratt.
“With the ‘Mobile Research Lab,’ the converted container Sea-Land built, we set out to learn all how to improve the quality of long-distance shipments. And it turned out I spent the better part of seven years living and working in that container,” says Pratt, who today is 58 years old and lives in a house.
Apples to apples
Barbara Pratt is a farm girl. She still works on the family farm she grew up on – 180 acres of apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, even Christmas trees, just an hour north of New York Ci and Maersk Line’s office in nearby Madison, New Jersey.