You know how to complete that sentence. In many cases, such as when trying to describe a person’s face or the Grand Canyon, a picture is most likely well worth the thousand words. But, when it comes to determining the freshness of perishable foods, a picture doesn’t tell you all that much.


Because a picture only tells a part of the story and, without the rest, the information you get is incomplete and often misleading. For example, in the photo above, you can tell that runner number 2 was ahead at the time the photo was taken but you can’t tell if her lead was increasing or decreasing. Perhaps she’s about to be overtaken by runner number 8 on the inside who may be running faster.

A photo can only tell you about the conditions at that moment in time. What’s important is knowing the entire story that includes all the details that are crucial to determining what the result will be.

Trying to determine the remaining freshness or shelf-life of produce or other perishable foods from a photo or image, trailer temperature logger or temperature pulping is the same. Here’s why.

When it comes to knowing the remaining freshness of perishable produce, you need to know what happened to the produce from moment it is harvested. Why? Because everything that happens from that point, in terms of harvest conditions, time, temperature and handling, impacts the product’s freshness and remaining shelf life and, therefore, its value to the retailer and consumer. The product is harvested at peak quality and, at that point, has an optimal shelf life – but what happened next?

Did it sit in the field for an hour? For four hours?

What was the temperature in the field at harvest? 60 degrees? 90 degrees?

What about the pallet next to it? It looks identical, but do you know its history?

You get the point. Every pallet can be – and often is – different. Each pallet has its own unique freshness capacity, its remaining shelf life which is impacted by time and temperature from the moment of harvest. And that remaining shelf life is dynamic, constantly changing throughout the supply chain based on time and conditions. Two pallets harvested from the same field on the same day could have shelf lives that vary by as much as five days or more and one could be aging much faster and the other much more slowly based on its history. And you can’t tell from looking at them.

So, back to the picture analogy. Imagine if you pulp the product temperature at shipping and again at receiving. It might tell you the current temperature or perhaps even some of the temperature history. But you can’t tell the remaining shelf life. Hyperspectral imaging and photo analytics may tell you the current condition of the product but not the previous history, rate of aging or remaining shelf life.

Determining the freshness and remaining shelf life requires knowing the freshness capacity of the product and the current rate of change of aging for the specific pallet of product. By autonomously collecting the necessary product data at the pallet level, from the time it is harvested to the present time and applying machine learning and predictive analytics you can determine its remaining shelf life and deliver prescriptive recommendations for better decision making.

We’ve done this with the Zest Intelligent Pallet Routing Code (ZIPR Code). It’s the industry’s first and only freshness metric and is a component of the Zest Fresh™ solution.

The ZIPR Code is dynamically calculated and provides you, in real-time, with the current remaining freshness of each pallet to help you intelligently manage product throughout the fresh food supply chain. It enables intelligent decision making that reduces waste and ultimately improves profitability. It’s superior to snapshots, pulping and imaging because it tells the whole story.

Using Zest Fresh and the ZIPR Code, growers, shippers and retailers are armed with dynamic up-to-date knowledge about the produce as it moves through the supply chain, to store shelves and to the consumer. This provides a level of intelligence that cannot be provided by trailer temperature recorders, temperature pulping, photo analytics or visual inspection.

Learn more about the limitations of pulping, data logging and imaging and the benefits of Zest Fresh and the ZIPR Code by downloading our new white paper Not Worth a Thousand Words.