PACKCHAIN: Eco-smart ventilated packaging for fresh fruit using virtual cold chains

Type. WFSC Coop Research Program project

Funding. This postdoctoral project is funded by the Coop Research Program of the World Food System Center of ETH Zurich.

Duration. 2 years (2015-2017)

Collaborations. This project is a collaboration between the Chair of Building Physics (Dr. Defraeye, Prof. Carmeliet) and the Chair of Ecological Systems Design (Prof. Hellweg) at ETH Zurich. External partners are the University of Stellenbosch (Prof. Opara) and Citrus Research International (Dr. Cronje) in South Africa.

Contact. Thijs Defraeye (principal investigator).

Staff. Dr. Wentao Wu (postdoc).

Project background

An important share of the food losses, energy consumption and carbon footprint in the fresh fruit and vegetables supply chain is embedded within postharvest unit operations such as precooling, refrigerated transport and storage. Improving ventilated packaging is an efficient way to increase product quality and shelf life by better and more uniform cooling throughout the cold chain. Packaging also helps in reducing the energy use of mechanical ventilation systems by altering the airflow resistance. The complex role of packaging solutions in the fresh produce supply chain is still not understood. The project combines virtual tracking of individual fruit throughout the cold chain unit operations with life cycle assessment as a novel approach to improve the food cold chain, by reducing product losses and environmental impact.


  1. Wu W., Beretta C., Cronje P., Hellweg S., Defraeye T. (2019), Environmental trade-offs in fresh-fruit cold chains by combining virtual cold chains with life cycle assessment, Applied Energy 254, 113586, 1-11. DOI and postprint  postprint
  2. Wu W., Cronje P., Verboven P., Defraeye T. (2019), Unveiling how ventilated packaging design and cold chain scenarios affect the cooling kinetics and fruit quality for each single citrus fruit in an entire pallet, Food Packaging and Shelf Life 21, 100369. DOI and postprint  postprint
  3. Wu W., Häller P., Cronjé P., Defraeye T. (2018), Full-scale experiments in forced-air precoolers for citrus fruit: Impact of packaging design and fruit size on cooling rate and heterogeneity, Biosystems Engineering 169, 115-125. DOI and postprint
  4. Wu W., Defraeye T. (2018), Identifying heterogeneities in cooling and quality evolution for a pallet of packed fresh fruit by using virtual cold chains, Applied Thermal Engineering 133, 407-417. DOI and postprint
  5. Wu W., Cronjé P., Nicolai B., Verboven P., Opara U.L., Defraeye T. (2018), Virtual cold chain to model the postharvest temperature history and quality evolution of fresh fruit – A case study for citrus fruit packed in a single carton, Computers and Electronics in Agriculture 144, 199-208. DOI and postprint


Funding agency:






Dr. Wentao Wu