FreshLinc is a leading service provider to retailers, food manufacturers, growers and importers throughout the UK and Europe. It specialises in the total supply chain management of temperature controlled fresh, chilled and horticultural products.

Mat Owen, Operations Manager at FreshLinc, talks to us about the drive to decarbonise the chilled food supply chain and the new technologies that are helping to achieve this goal. 

Traditionally the logistic sector is a fossil fuel-dependent industry where diesel is used as fuel for most delivery and transport vehicles. FreshLinc is using several innovative technologies to help in its mission to lower diesel usage and reduce its carbon footprint. 

The company has installed a 392 kWp photovoltaic panel array across its warehouse roof space, which produces in excess of 400,000 kWh in 2022. Photovoltaic panels are similar to solar panels and convert light into electricity.  

Although this has been working well, there can be some inconsistencies in how much energy is generated, particularly in the winter months and on cloudy days. 

To complement the energy produced by the panels, FreshLinc has also begun to look into harnessing wind power.  

Mat said: "To be realistic, we live in Lincolnshire and the sun is not our constant companion! 

“Harnessing wind power could be a way to complement our solar generation as average wind speed tends to be at its highest at the same time solar generation is at its lowest. Wind can also generate power through the night.” 

FreshLinc teamed up with DSR Energy to trial the first Ventum Dynamic wind turbines in the UK. One was placed on the pier at Skegness beach and the other on FreshLinc’s own roof in Spalding. Ventum Dynamic wind turbines are small scale and cost efficient, designed to produce more affordable energy. 

“Although this is only a prototype model, the figures generated so far have confirmed the accuracy of Ventum’s computer modelling, and we look forward to installing production models in due course,” says Mat. 

As a transporter of chilled food and horticulture, a big part of FreshLinc’s energy usage is for the refrigeration of its fleet of trailers. To reduce this energy usage, the company is currently looking into other alternatives. 

FreshLinc recently trialled a Sunswap trailer, which is 100% electric and has solar panels on the roof as well as plug-in charging capabilities. 

The company is now also exploring possibilities offered by Greenhill Systems which can install solar panels on the roof of the existing fleet, allowing the company to retain diesel capability if the sun is not out or there are no charging points available. 

To focus on the refrigeration energy specifically, FreshLinc has recently taken delivery of Eco Drive tractor units that power the trailer’s fridge through a Power Take Off (PTO) fitted to the unit which reduces diesel usage by up to 75%.  

The company has taken delivery of a number of new trailers fitted with Thermo King Advancer Units which reduce diesel consumption by over 50% while still maintaining the correct temperature to ensure that the food it delivers is safe. 

Mat said: “We have trialled various solutions to reduce our diesel usage and continue to do so. 

“Following a successful trial of longer semi-trailers by the Department of Transport it has been estimated that use of these longer trailers could reduce journey numbers by one in 12, which is a significant reduction. 

“Following this we have ordered new trailers that have the capacity to carry 30 pallets instead of the traditional 26, which we hope will help us reduce our diesel usage by lowering the number of journeys our fleet takes alongside the work we are doing to reduce energy usage.” 

Looking further into the future, Mat believes that hydrogen may be the solution.  

“In the long term, the UK is on course to ban the sale of new diesel-powered lorries by 2040,” says Mat, “and although this seems a long time away, if the research into alternative power sources is not in full swing already, this could leave the industry in a precarious position. 

“Considering that 98% of all food in the UK travels by road at some point in its journey from farm to fork, this is a wider worry for the food security of the UK. 

“Although battery electrical vehicles may well have a part to play in commercial vehicles, much of the industry believes this will be for ‘final mile’ deliveries rather than large goods vehicles (LGVs). 

“The solution for LGVs could potentially be hydrogen fuel cells.” 

Mat explains that refuelling with hydrogen would take no longer than it takes to fill up with diesel, as opposed to longer charging times for electric vehicles. Hydrogen can also be stored, transported and delivered within existing infrastructure. 

FreshLinc, in conjunction with DRS Energy and Ellgia, is exploring the possibility of converting non-recyclable waste into hydrogen through the Plagazi System. This would remove tonnes of non-recyclable waste from landfill and produce green hydrogen, which is a clean energy source of suitable industrial grade to power a truck’s fuel cells.  

The plan would be to convert FreshLinc’s LGV fleet to dual fuel capabilities, with an even split between hydrogen and diesel, to allow the UK refuelling network to develop hydrogen capabilities. 

FreshLinc is already researching, testing and implementing new innovative technologies to help the company become more carbon neutral. This will help it be a front runner in the industry when it comes to decarbonisation and means that it will be well prepared for any future sustainability legislation.  

The Greater Lincolnshire LEP’s Energy Council is focused on driving forward affordable reliable and clean energy for the Greater Lincolnshire area, particularly across our gamechanger sectors.