Have you noticed how important are the refrigerated containers (reefers) for the food logistics around the world?
They are essential in normal circumstances and even more so during periods of quarantine like the ones we are currently experiencing. Moments when the distribution of fresh produce cannot be locked down due to COVID19.
It was not too long ago that reefers were developed. Throughout history, the challenge of transporting fresh food over long distances has haunted traders and, most tangibly, engineers all over the world.
Countless have been the efforts to achieve the long-distance transportation of fresh foods. But, in the field of temperature-controlled delivery, who were the forerunners?
Two names emerge here:
- Charles Tellier
- Frederick McKinley Jones
Charles Tellier was a French engineer who always showed great interest in mechanical engineering. After several unsuccessful attempts, Tellier managed to carry out a pioneering overseas shipment. In 1876, he fitted a methyl-ether refrigerating plant in a cargo ship. The vessel was renamed Le Frigorifique and travelled from Rouen to Buenos Aires with fresh meat. After a 3-month journey, the meat reached Argentina in perfect conditions on 25 December 1876. Tellier’s revolutionary vision triggered the mass exportation of meat from Argentina to Great Britain. However, Tellier did not exploit commercially his invention. In 1908, the first International Congress of Cold was held and Tellier, who became known as the “Father of cold”, received a sustained applause. In 1910, he wrote his interesting book Histoire d´une invention moderne, where he narrates all his challenges.
Frederick McKinley Jones
Frederick McKinley Jones was an American engineer who did not conquer the seas, but he revolutionized the field of portable air-cooling units in 1935. His first breakthrough consisted in a cooling system placed on the outside of trucks that carried perishable foods. He also developed an air-conditioning unit that was used by the US Army in World War II. The converted truck units led to the first refrigerated marine containers in the late ‘60s. McKinley was coined the “King of Cool”. He even co-founded Thermo-King.
As we have seen, the transportation of perishable goods has undergone a huge transformation in very few decades. And thanks to these visionaries, the safety and durability of food is guaranteed regardless how many miles lie ahead.