FlowerWatch Engaging flower supply chains for maximum quality and profitability

FlowerWatch Engaging flower supply chains for maximum quality and profitability

Kenya flower industry is developing faster than ever; new markets such as Asia and America are opening up, while existing ones are seeing many new developments. While Kenya has many natural advantages, competiveness and efficiency is more important than ever for assurance of fair share of the market. There is need to do better on customer satisfaction and profitability by solving and preventing problems that occur along cold chain, post-harvest, packaging and cut flower handling.

One of the companies of its kind in the region helping growers improve on Quality Assurance is FlowerWatch. The company envision every player in the flower supply chain – from growers and transporters to exporters and importers, traders, supermarkets and florists on how they can upgrade their standards and take on the competition. Their dream is for people all around the world to be able to enjoy fresh-cut flowers of uniform and excellent quality with a guaranteed, extensive vase life.

FlowerWatch services to flower industry include trainings in cold chain management, whereby they offer on farm or in house trainings and open trainings. For open training they have developed five training modules; Cold Chain Management, Post-Harvest Technology, Packaging, Cut Flower Handling and Quality Assurance where each module takes a day to train in theory and practical aspects. They hold two series of trainings per year; during the first half of the year and second half of the year. Their trainings are NITA applicable and therefore part of the participants’ fee is reclaimable.

“The training was very effective because, the importance of clean water in post-harvest was properly brought out, and as we all know customers buy flowers for aesthetic purpose hence what they are interested in is proper blooming, and this can seriously be affected by the quality of water used,” David Muchiri, General Manager, Brannan Roses was reported saying.

Apart from trainings, the company provide cold chain monitoring and analysis services starting from growers, freight forwarders, airline, unpackers up to the end user to ensure quality standard measure. “Audits and monitoring at different locations along the chain will provide insight into flower quality levels. We use data loggers, infrared cameras, thermometers and vase life tests to present a clear coherent report. By combining the analysis with our knowledge and experience, we draw up an action plan with the client on how to bring about improvements,” Billy Chege, FlowerWatch’s, Quality Expert explained.

“Cold chain management is a vital success factor in the post-harvest life of fresh flowers. An optimized cold chain guarantees longer vase life or shelf life, satisfied customers, an improved brand image and of course maximum profitability for all involved in the supply chain. Success in this field requires two things: a method for tracking down and fixing cold chain weak spots; and a system designed to ensure consistently superior cold chain performance,” Chege expounded.

The main threat to flower quality, visual quality and vase life of fresh-cut flowers during their journey from grower to consumer is so-called time temperature exposure. The longer flowers are exposed to temperatures above the desired level, the more they suffer.

Temperature exposure during storage and transportation contributes to discolouring, wilting, poor flower opening, premature ageing and botrytis. The end result is reduced vase life by several days, leads to rejects, decreased product value, customer dissatisfaction and frequently results in costly claims. The company has found that reducing time temperature exposure; that is the average temperature during transportation multiplied by the number of transportation hours, a value expressed in so-called ‘degree hours’ yields significant gains and can yield 5% fewer rejects.

“Reducing the number of degree hours usually does not require major investments, but instead can often be achieved with a few smart alterations such as adjusting how you position and stack boxes in a cooling cell, reducing the transfer time between one cold chain link and the next or simply being more alert to actual temperatures. It’s a matter of combining knowledge with consistency and discipline,” Chege advised.

In February this year, FlowerWatch Kenya set up a vase life room of international standards at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), where their offices are located. The room is set up under controlled room temperature (20°C), lighting (12 hours light and 12 hours dark) and humidity (± 50 – 70%). The vase life room is the first of its standards in the region, and is used for testing the vase life and ethylene sensitivity of different varieties of flowers. “We test up to 14 days vase life of flowers as requested by our clients, which constitutes judgement of bud opening, diseases such as botrytis and downy mildew, wilting, discolouration, yellowing foliage, among others. The tests are then assessed and database-generated reports compiled to depict the precise performance and advise the clients accordingly,” he said.

They have a Standard document for growers and freight forwarders and they are rolling out one for airlines and unpackers. The Standards guide on what the industry need to do in regard to quality assurance. “We audit firms against these documents. Growers should focus on quality and not quantity of flowers shipped,” he advised.

By embracing Quality Assurance systems, it reduces logistical costs, raise margins, extend vase life, satisfy consumers and develop a sustainable, successful supply chain.

FlowerWatch Kenya will conduct a series of open as from September 2018. See the dates below.

Cool chain management – 14th September

Post-harvest technology – 28th September

Packaging – 12th October

Cut flower handling – 26th October

Quality Assurance – 16th November

The trainings will take place at Naivasha.

To sign up kindly contact Billy Chege (billy@flowerwatch. com/ +254728294008)

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