Creating the SmartCrate

October 30, 2008
Written by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Oct. 31, 2008, Ottawa – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Laval University and IPL Inc. of Saint-Damien were honoured earlier this year at the Federal Partners in Technology Transfer (FPTT) Excellence in Technology Transfer Awards ceremony for the development of a reusable and recyclable container specifically intended for shipping and handling fresh horticultural products, the SmartCrate.
Dr Clément Vigneault and M. Bernard Goyette of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Horticulture Research and Development Centre in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.
The FPTT Awards reward excellence in the transfer of federal laboratory technology with significant economic or social impacts on Canadians in the areas of health, safety, the environment or defence.
The continually increasing consumption of fresh horticultural products in Canada and the United States is currently at 43.5 million tonnes a year, and about two billion containers are used for shipping and handling. Damage caused during shipping and handling can result in losses of 15 per cent to 50 per cent, depending on the product.
To improve the quality of horticultural products offered to consumers and lessen the environmental impact of processing, shipping and handling such products, Dr. Clément Vigneault and Bernard Goyette of AAFC’s Horticultural Research and Development Centre in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Dr. Jean-Pierre Émond, professor at Laval University in Quebec City, and IPL Inc. have implemented a system specifically designed for these products sold fresh.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Laval University research projects developed the SmartCrate, which led to the procurement of two patents. Then a collaborative project with IPL Inc. resulted in the commercial version of the SmartCrate. Since 1997, the company has held a technology transfer marketing licence. In August 2006, IPL Inc. and Reliance Retail Ltd. signed a sub-licensing agreement granting Reliance Retail exclusive SmartCrate manufacturing and marketing rights for India.
Furthermore, Dr. Vigneault’s contribution to the technology transfer of the product that IPL is marketing extends beyond research agreements through publications and presentations. The impact of the SmartCrate launch covers several aspects, including approximately 15 per cent lower fresh horticultural product loss, 15 per cent lower energy costs associated with product chilling and 200,000 fewer tonnes of single-use containers in circulation.


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