The PMA Fresh Summit did not disappoint! This year’s Produce Marketing Association’s annual conference had over 21,000 attendees and over 1.1 million square feet of trade show floor space housing 1,200 exhibitors spanning 55 rows from one end of the hall to the other. In addition to a plethora of produce – from apples to zucchini – there were a number of technology vendors exhibiting, some new and some who’ve been exhibiting for years.

What’s Changed at the PMA Fresh Summit?

Last week’s blog discussed my expectations for this year’s Fresh Summit: I was curious if I would see more technology related to IoT sensors, artificial intelligence and blockchain. During my exploration of the show floor, I found some evidence of this, but the main difference I found different in terms of technology was the attendees’ willingness to embrace it.

When last we exhibited at PMA six years ago, visitors often didn’t understand how freshness management or things like sensor technology applied to them. The urgency around improving operations and curtailing waste and the associated financial benefits weren’t always evident at that time. That wasn’t the situation this year.

Simply put, people got it. They’re eager to explore new technology solutions that add value to their business.

A World Embracing AgTech

The industry has changed. Operational efficiency, quality, freshness and profitability goals are now key drivers.

Growers and retailers alike realized the value of freshness management and having insights into their supply chain. They understand more than ever that their lack of visibility impacts the quality of their product.

For example, we discussed how Zest Fresh provides freshness data and insights related to product handling from harvest to pre-cool and growers indicated that they often have problems with this, but no way to understand or manage this issue. Conversations with retailers indicated that they too realize the potential for supply chain transparency to reduce waste and improve the delivered freshness of the produce they receive. They made the connection of how IoT sensors, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics can bring value to their business and wanted to learn more.

In addition to our exhibit, Zest Labs was also part of PMA’s Blockchain Village. There we had the opportunity to have more in-depth conversations about the role of blockchain in traceability and visibility. Some attendees asked what blockchain was and some were frustrated with the heavy focus on technology but seemed appreciative of our ability to explain the value of blockchain for their business rather than just rattle off buzzwords.

What’s the Message?

As a technology supplier, we need to add value, not just sell technology. Tech-based add-ons are prolific, but when we demonstrate how growers and retailers can benefit from improved supply chain operations and visibility, the business imperative becomes clear and they see the value in what we do.

PS: There Was Some Fun Too

The PMA Fresh Summit is also a fun show, with things like mariachi music, lots of food samples and interesting characters. You can check out some of our photos by following us on Facebook.