Here’s Why We Have Quality R&D
From the greenhouse to your house, our vegetables pass through a smart supply chain so that they’re picked, packed, and shipped with care. But as Nature Fresh Farms continues to grow, we know our supply chain’s capabilities need to grow right along with us!
It’s no secret that rapid growth often comes with growing pains. With our company constantly growing different products, exploring new packaging, and adding partners to our network, we needed to focus on bringing more science-based research and testing into our supply chain to keep it as efficient as possible. For example, when we’re talking about storing vegetables, one of our research focuses is on optimizing shelf-life and delaying rates of respiration. Our commitment to finding even better ways to care for our Tomatoes, Peppers, and Cucumbers while they make their way through our supply chain is how our Distribution Center’s Quality R&D team was born.
Our R&D team’s mission is simple: use a food science approach paired with business analysis to find our supply chain pain points and explore the best ways to fix them. Not only will our Quality R&D team help us deliver the plumpest, crunchiest, freshest vegetables to our customers, but they will also play an important role in keeping our supply chain running smoothly as our company continues to grow.
Let’s look at how our Quality R&D team is building an even stronger relationship between our vegetables, our packaging, and our supply chain operations!
How Quality R&D Works
Our supply chain is strong, but as our company continues to grow, we will need to keep finding even better ways to care for our vegetables as they travel from the greenhouse to your house.
When a new pain point is introduced to our Quality R&D team, they start digging to find out exactly where the problem begins. Starting in the greenhouse and working their way through the supply chain all the way to final shipment, our R&D team checks each step of the supply chain process until they discover where the issue first appears.
These issues are often directly related to how a product is being picked, packed, packaged, stored, or shipped, but sometimes, it can be a combination of these factors. There are a lot of unique conditions within our supply chain that our R&D team needs to keep in mind when trying to figure out how to solve these pain points. From new vegetable varieties, to shipping temperatures, to packaging prototypes, to unique microorganisms, every variable found within the supply chain needs to be given special attention.
For example, a new package may not be keeping our Tomatoes as fresh as we want, but then our R&D team might discover that our vegetables have a better shelf-life when stored in that same packaging but at a different temperature in our Shipping department. Another good example would be conducting research and trials to see how new products with higher respiration rates, or that are more susceptible to factors like water loss, physical damage, or decay, can be protected with better supply chain management and processes.
This is where the fun begins: our R&D team takes this information and starts researching and testing to discover how the issue can be resolved (and if there’s more to it than meets the eye)! Fixing these pain points is often a balancing act—with an interconnected supply chain, every stage affects the next, so each one needs to be accounted for when coming up with solutions. For example, changing the humidity levels in our Distribution Center may solve one issue, but it could cause a whole new problem with a product’s shelf-life, or a truck’s temperature may need to be adjusted as a result. Understanding how each step in the supply chain affects the next is crucial for keeping our supply chain efficient!
Depending on the scale of the issue, a single Quality R&D project can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months to complete. But no matter how long a new project lasts, the results we gather from our research and trials are well-worth the time and effort if they can help us build stronger supply chain processes.
Our Quality R&D Team
One of our team members, Xiaoxiao G., is a dedicated member of our Quality R&D team who takes the lead on R&D projects from a food science and research perspective. Xiaoxiao spends her days researching, testing, and reporting on every Quality R&D project we launch—she is one of our Grow-To People!
With a background in Biology and Medical Biotechnology, Xiaoxiao’s interest in food science and agriculture grew after joining our Quality team. The Quality team is in a unique position when it comes to handling our vegetables—they quickly learn how each of our supply chain processes can affect the quality of our products. As Xiaoxiao became more familiar with these important relationships between our vegetables and the supply chain, she knew she could consider deeper factors – including biochemical changes during the vegetable ripening process – and combine her food science knowledge with her work in the Quality department to discover new challenges and solve practical issues within the fresh food industry!
With multiple R&D projects always on the go, Xiaoxiao works collaboratively with different departments as they introduce new pain points for her to explore. A typical day for Xiaoxiao involves conducting research so she can learn more about the problems we want to solve, as well as planning, scheduling, driving, and tracking R&D projects. As projects progress, Xiaoxiao adjusts the project scope and resolves any testing issues, and depending on the project, Xiaoxiao maintains a flexible schedule so she can perform her tests in both controlled and real-time environments. Whenever a project is completed, Xiaoxiao also creates detailed reports with recommendations for how to tackle the issue.
While new projects can be challenging, Xiaoxiao has a true passion for problem solving! And the few limitations that have been put on Xiaoxiao’s work have given her more freedom to think outside of the box (sometimes literally!) when working on R&D projects.
A Culture of Curiosity
Whether it be testing the latest seeds in our Discovery Center, or exploring the best packaging options with our Quality R&D team, we have embraced research and development at every level of our operations. Our leaders have created a culture of curiosity at Nature Fresh Farms where experimentation and outside-the-box thinking are encouraged, and where our people feel empowered to make positive change happen!
We know that taking risks can be scary, but we also believe that they are an essential part of the path to progress.