Necessity is the Mother of Our Innovation: Celebrating Lineage’s 50th Patent
February 08, 2023
Just over a decade ago, Lineage set out to transform the world’s food supply chain to eliminate waste and help feed the world. To do that, we brought together diverse minds from multiple disciplines and invested in cutting-edge technology to reimagine how the cold chain moves the world’s food from farm to fork.
This month, our team celebrates an important milestone in Lineage’s innovation journey: the issuance of our 50th patent.
Solving Problems with Technology
The New Zealand Intellectual Property Office issued Lineage’s 50th patent. Patent number 50 describes a blast freezer design that more efficiently and effectively freezes meat or fresh produce. Blast freezing is exactly what it sounds like, it’s the process of rapidly bringing food from ambient temperature down to below-freezing temperatures, increasing shelf life and allowing it to travel.
Poor airflow and inefficient thermal distribution in industry-standard blast freezing processes can result in inconsistent freeze times and qualities. Such inconsistencies increase the time necessary to blast freeze product, decrease the quality of the final frozen product and waste energy.
So how did we reimagine this process? Math and science, that’s how. Alexander Zhang, Senior Systems Engineer here at Lineage, with support from other technical team members, various warehouse operators and others around Lineage, started with the problem, then designed a solution using multiple mathematical and scientific disciplines, increasing product quality and reducing freeze time.
Long story short:
- The Problem – Inconsistent freeze times and qualities when using conventional blast freeze methods.
- The Solution – Redesign blast cells using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and custom-curved metal panels for optimum, equally-distributed airflow across all pallets and products within each cell.
- The Results – Freeze more products in as little as half the time while using up to 20% less energy. That’s what we call a win-win-win.
It’s important to note that Lineage isn’t just innovating for innovation’s sake. Our innovations solve tangible problems, making the cold chain smarter and more efficient for our customers. A more efficient cold chain increases the quality of food, decreases the cost of food and decreases the environmental impact of the food system.
“Necessity is the mother of our innovation”
According to Lineage VP & Chief Data Scientist, Elliott Wolf. “Every one of our patents memorialized a novel solution to a problem that we encountered while designing, improving or operating the food supply chain. Necessity is the mother of our innovation.”
Every patent we’ve secured started as a problem faced by our operators and/or our customers. From there, our team worked together, often with functional teams all over the Lineage organization, to find the best solution. Such innovation—some initiatives spanning years—is possible partly because Lineage has the scale necessary to make meaningful, long-term investments in large-scale experimentation and capital improvements throughout our network.
Such innovations require talent and vision as well. The multidisciplinary teams working on these solutions look across industries to find game-changing solutions to problems in the cold chain.
Finding Solutions Across Industries:
- Innovations from data centers help solve problems in food warehouse operations.
- Aerospace innovations shed light on refrigeration systems.
- Machine learning, computer vision and combinatoric mathematics are relevant to automation.
Our team’s spirit of creative discovery led to each of our 50 patents to-date and will continue to lead us on our innovation journey as we build the cold chain of the future. What will we think of next?
50 and Counting
What it all comes down to is building a better cold chain with people and the planet in mind. For the most part, the major inventions that shaped this industry were made decades (or even centuries) ago. But what got the industry here won’t get us to the next level.
For us, the next frontier is automation. We’re able to make smarter decisions to protect our teams and the planet by leveraging innovations in software and algorithms. The future of the cold chain includes more energy efficient buildings, fewer hours spent in the cold and more optimized processes to quickly move product to the consumer. We would know because that’s the cold chain we’re building.