Cold chain is not the name of an alternative rock band. Rather, a cold chain is a term that describes an uninterrupted series of storage and distribution activities which maintain a given temperature range for perishable products. The products include meat, dairy, produce, and pharmaceuticals.
Shipping perishables is no easy task, and often, items are spoiled. New Israeli company BT9 is an end-to-end cold chain management (CCM) solutions provider that gives its customers, the producers of perishables, the information they need to better protect their products during shipment and transportation.
Veteran entrepreneur Israel Ben-Tzur established BT9 in April 2012 along with Shlomi Zait, Ariel Gordon, Yossi Pelech, and Udi Aviran. BT9 provides its customers information about their products through Xsense, a web-application that provides customer with real-time monitoring and updates about their temperature-sensitive products.
BT9 was created as a technology spin-off of Israeli company StePac, a leading manufacturer of fresh produce packaging. Ben-Tzur tells NoCamels, “The idea for BT9 came to me about six years ago while I was CEO of StePac. It was clear to us [at StePac] that the performance of packaging would be best served only when cold chain supply is intact. People would come and complain to us about the StePac packaging, when in fact the problem was the break in the cold chain.” And so BT9 came to be.
The package is monitored every step of the way
BT9 has designed “tag sensors” that are placed in the packaging with the produce. “These tags are about the size of a cigarette lighter, and within these tags are sensors which can track temperature, humidity, light exposure, vibration, and gasses,” says Ben-Tzur. These disposable tags transmit information data to BT9’s servers, and are then discarded when the perishables arrive to their final destination. BT9 has servers at the main office in Israel, as well as off-site servers elsewhere in Israel and around the world that receive data from these sensors.
The data collected from these sensors is then reformatted and presented in the BT9 customer web portal. If there is urgency in the data, the information is sent to the customer through an SMS or email, Ben-Tzur says. “Let’s say we have a dairy customer. The sensors in the packages sense the temperature of dairy products is seven degrees centigrade for more than two hours, when it should be at five. Our system sees this pattern of risk, and immediately alerts the customer.” Customers can select how frequently, and what kind of general updates and alerts it wants to receive from BT9.
Customers can also log into a personalized BT9 web portal and track their shipments in real time to receive information. “Our customers don’t have to buy software or hardware, instead, our web application is simple to use, and requires little training to understand,” Ben-Tzur explains.
“Up to 50 percent of perishables are wasted”
In addition to the real-time tracking and web portal, BT9 puts together reports and analytical documents for its customers. “We take the data collected by our sensors, and convert it to reports. These management reports enable our customers to do benchmarking, and better understand risks,” Ben-Tzur tells NoCamels.
Ben Tzur claims that globally, 30 to 50 percent of perishable and temperature-sensitive produce is wasted because of improper handling.” Using the information in the BT9-generated reports, that level of waste can be reduced. These reports can enlighten customers about a single shipment, a certain event, storage facilities, and all other aspects and locations along the cold chain. “We can generate many different types of reports that give a full picture of risks and patterns of risks to our customers. They can then understand how to alter and improve their business in relation to those risks,” he asserts.
According to BT, the added value is to the end consumers. “The improper handling of meat and seafood along the cold chain can result in serious health risks, including Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Vibrios and Clostridium, among others.”
No marketing needed
While there are a number of other companies that provide similar services, BT9 says its advantage is that it can track shipments in real time, as they are on the move. BT9 currently works with over 200 companies in 35 countries.
BT9 charges their customers based on individualized program plans. “Our cost is a function of what the customer defines that they need, such as the volume of tracking they need. The number of sensors, number of reports, and transit type all factor into the price function” Ben-Tzur explains.
The company’s team includes Shlomi Zait, previously CEO of Gal-Tech, and director of the Xsense development and commercialization program at StePac L.A., Ltd. Ariel Gordon was previously manager of customer service at StePac L.A. responsible for supporting global operations, system implementations and training programs. Yossi Pelech was previously vice president of R&D at Wireless Applications Corporation, system engineer at NDS, and project manager at Electra Consumer Products. Udi Aviran was a commercial Director of the Xsense program at StePac L.A. and previously served as supply chain and sales manager at Nilit Fibers, US, and vice president of operations at Scitex – CreoScitex, Hong Kong.
Ben-Tzur studied towards his PhD in Organizational Psychology at Claremont Graduate School, and at Tel Aviv University. He also holds a Master of Science degree in Industrial Psychology from California State University at Long Beach. He is the founder and former CEO of health product manufacturer Cost Rite Health Products, Inc., of Los Angeles and StePac L.A, Ltd. of Israel. While CEO of StePac, he was also the director at the international branch of United Fresh Produce Association, US.
While the company is less than a year old, Ben Tzur is proud to say it is already “profitable.” The company has no outside investors. BT9 is focused on expanding its current markets in North America, South America, Central America and Europe. The company is located in Migdal Tefen Industrial Park, Israel.
By Elana Widmann