1. What was the motivation behind the TomKat KoolPak?
Kath Long: Environmental sustainability and traceability have been founding principles of TomKat from its humble beginnings. TomKat Line Fish was first established in 2007 as a fishing business located by Kurrimine Beach in the far north of Queensland, close to the Great Barrier Reef. The main product is wild reef fish, which is caught by line, processed on-site, and marketed to customers throughout the country.
It was clear to both Tom and I, that the fishing industry was in dire need of sustainable packaging alternatives to polystyrene boxes. This lack of more sustainable alternatives to polystyrene boxes on the global market inspired us to start our own packaging company, TomKat Global Solutions, in 2018. That same year, the TomKat KoolPak was born. We didn't start the project to make money, but because it was needed.
Tom Long: In fact, according to the Australian government’s National Plastics Plan 2021, polystyrene in food and beverage containers and consumer packaging will be phased out by December 2022. By 2025, 100 % of packaging – including packaging used for the commercial transport of goods – must be reusable, recyclable, or compostable. To achieve this goal, we aim to help existing polystyrene manufacturers make the transition to sustainable packaging by allowing them to lease the IP and produce KoolPak boxes in their own facilities.
2. Why was NFC chosen for this project?
Tom Long: We gave a lot of thought at the start of the project about how we were going to provide traceability with the KoolPak. We’ve looked at barcode and QR code technology initially. These technologies proved problematic when the KoolPak was assembled. Then we came across NFC technology and were immediately taken with the its capabilities – especially in combination with the smartphone. We saw early on the value of provenance, where everyone wants to have some recognition where their product has gone or where they’ve been harvested from for example. NFC technology with temperature sensing capabilities was the answer.
3. How does NFC and sensor technology benefit local fishermen and international customers?
Tom Long: By using the NFC sensor tags and the monitoring software, local fishermen, international customers and official authorities can be sure that the provenance of the products is accounted for. Kath and I see West Africa as an important potential market for the KoolPak for example. The high temperatures there make inland transport of perishable goods challenging. The track and trace function of the NFC tags can be used to detect and prevent fraud and other illegal activities along the supply chain.
This is particularly relevant when it comes to geographic areas such as the Pacific Islands, which have access to large amounts of high quality seafood, but limited access to the global market due to the high prevalence of illegal fishing.
4. What future visions do you have for the TomKat KoolPak?
Kath Long: The TomKat KoolPak was originally designed for the transport of live, fresh, chilled and frozen products. This even includes dangerous goods with a mass no greater than 25 kg, and also has potential for use in the pharmaceutical industry. The KoolPak can be used to transport any kind of temperature- sensitive goods, and this of course includes vaccines, blood bags and even organs, for example. There is currently only one size of KoolPak available. However, the ultimate goal is to have two more standard sizes available: One smaller e-commerce box that is well suited for the home meal delivery market, and one longer sized box that is more suited for the salmon industry.
Tom Long: We also plan to expand own production capabilities and to employ 130 people on a full-time basis with the goal of producing one million KoolPaks by 2023. With the support of all three branches of the Australian government – federal, regional, and local – and the cooperation with other companies, we estimate a circulation of 23 million KoolPaks by 2024. The ultimate goal is to completely replace polystyrene packaging for the transportation and storage of perishable products not only on national, but on a global level.