Dole Sunshine Company and Clarifruit Partner to Automate QC and Reduce Fruit Loss

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About Dole Sunshine Company

Dole Sunshine Company is the name used to represent the global interests and combined efforts of Dole Asia Holdings, Dole Worldwide Packaged Foods and Dole Asia Fresh.
As one of the world’s top 5 producers of fruits and vegetables, the company is committed to supplying the highest-quality products and to leading the industry in nutrition research and education. Dole supports these goals with a corporate philosophy of adhering to the highest ethical conduct in all its business dealings, treatment of its employees, and social and environmental policies.

In 2020, Dole announced the Dole Promise to promote a long-term goal of reducing fruit loss and waste across its supply chain. Two core elements of the Dole Promise are to be better for the planet, striving to meet zero fruit loss from Dole farms to markets by 2025, and better for stakeholders, positively impacting farmers, communities and Dole workers.

The Quality Control Challenge

As part of the Dole Promise to achieve zero fruit loss by 2025, the company needed to add greater accuracy and control to its Quality Control (QC) processes for fresh produce. Before working with Clarifruit, the entire process was completed manually, and so interpretation of the fruit quality was subjective and slow. All data was being manually uploaded for reporting, which was leading to limited real-time data and zero actionable insights to drive decision making.

Onboarding a digital and AI-driven QC solution was not an easy task. Dole has six different produce categories, each of which has multiple and varied characteristics. A digital platform needed to support all of these categories, enable scale and growth, and integrate with existing systems.

Dole was looking for a partner who could support the company in:

  • Digitization: To improve QC processes at their facilities to reduce both time and manual effort, and improve the reliability and accuracy of their QC decision-making.
  • Automation: Transforming manual and subjective inspection processes completed by the human eye, to AI-driven, objective and data-rich inspections, forging a culture of innovation.
  • Data-usage: Creating a single centralized data repository worldwide to improve communication and efficiency, and use Big Data to speed up decision making.

The Solution

Committed to transforming to a more sustainable food supply chain by reducing fruit loss, Dole recognized it couldn’t achieve these significant goals alone, and wanted to partner with entrepreneurs who already had the expertise and technology in place. Through its Sunshine for All (SFA) Fund, the company has been looking to partner with young, promising start-ups to accelerate innovation and technology.

According to Barbara Guerpillon, Head of Dole Ventures, “Clarifruit was selected for its proven track record in successfully operating its next-gen AI technologies in commercial settings, its multi-crop QC capabilities, and platform scalability.” After a two-month introduction process, Dole signed up for a Pilot program with Clarifruit in early 2021. The pilot was focused on pineapple exports from the Philippines to six markets worldwide.

Following a successful pilot, the Clarifruit QC platform is currently used at Dole’s fresh pineapple packing plants for pre-shipment inspection, as well as at the local markets for inspection upon arrival.

Clarifruit’s end-to-end QC platform uses advanced computer-vision technology to automate fresh produce quality inspection and evaluation, while analyzing factors such as size and color. Dole is able to collect inspection data automatically, providing high-quality real-time information and analytics to the QC leadership team, and easily integrating with any other third-party applications and devices. For Dole, this includes its internal ERP systems, and will also cover future NIR devices in the field.

Transforming Dole’s QC processes through increased productivity and reduced waste

“We selected Clarifruit for its technology but also for the expertise and availability of its team. Despite the distance, and the difficulties of remote implementation during the pandemic, Clarifruit have shown an incredible ability to work together thanks to their resilience and a common ambition to make this pilot work.”

All KPIs that were defined for the pilot program were met and even exceeded, and due to this success, the two companies are now in the process of scaling this technology to additional markets and fruit categories, including bananas, papayas, and avocados. This partnership will target a further 10% reduction in fruit loss within the next 24 months. It is a significant achievement that this pilot was managed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and performed remotely across multiple countries, cultures, and languages.

Benefits of the partnership so far include:

  • 2X productivity increase: QC teams are happy to spend less time on manual work, and free up their time to add more value elsewhere.
  • Reduction in error-prone QC reports: QC teams have substantially increased the sample size of their inspections, improving accuracy.
  • Centralized data: All data from auto-generated reports is now on a single, cloud-based platform for instant communications between stakeholders.
  • Increased objectivity: A fully automated process for the pineapple category, increasing consistency and removing subjective human judgment and bias.
  • Improved training: Management and training of Dole’s QC teams can be efficiently handled remotely via Clarifruit’s cloud-based software.

“Dole and Clarifruit are both intent on changing and building the future of agriculture together and driving change that will be beneficial for all stakeholders across the fresh produce supply chain. This is just the beginning.”

Step into the future of fresh produce quality and control

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