Thermo Defense®

In 1986, Keith Kenneally left the airline industry to start an air freight business that catered to the emerging produce industry in California. According to Keith: “there were hundreds of freight forwarders back then and only a few had the guts to specialize in perishable freight. Any specialization in 1987 was limited to only two basic services. First, understanding how to properly hand stack airline containers. Second, provide this loading service 7 days per week between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.” A 24/7 warehouse operation was un-heard of back in that day, but has since become an industry standard.

As business grew, competition entered the freight market seeking a piece of the global demand for California fruits and vegetables. Keith’s relationships with industry leaders led him to the post harvest research department of U.C. Davis where he learned about the natural occurring respiration of fresh produce, microbial decay, and the need for cold chain preservation. The perishable air freight industry was so new in 1987 that many forwarders did not have a cold room for storage prior to shipping. In addition, nothing was being used to prevent heat gain during the shipping process so any airline service failures would result in massive freight claims. Worst of all, air carriers did not take liability for the perishable nature of fresh cargo. Consequently, shippers absorbed huge losses whenever a flight was delayed.

Airplane wing over a body of water

It was quite obvious to Keith that to solve the industry problem of delivering hot and decaying product to end users, cold storage and heat retardant loading materials were necessary.

“Our access to usable insulation materials was limited in the 1980′s. We first used polystyrene foam and customized panels to line the inside of shipping containers. The foam was effective to some degree, but the work was tedious and polystyrene was environmentally unfriendly. Our East Coast clients even had trouble disposing of the foam waste.”

Through the U.C. Davis Department of Agriculture, Keith discovered a reflective bubble material that was being studied as a deterrent to field heat in the pear industry. He immediately recognized the application and potential for the material and began to experiment with it; his goal: develop a heat prevention program for all Jet Pro’s customers. The reflective bubble was a fairly effective insulator, cost efficient, and disposable. However, the only supplier at the time was located in Indiana. As a result, Jet Pro had a hard time keeping enough material on-hand and the manufacturer was not equipped or prepared to fill orders by the truck load.

Even back then, Jet Pro was setting a standard for the industry by creating the first cold storage facilities and container insulation products such as, the bubble wrap, gel ice, and custom container shelving. More then 20 years later, Keith claims: “it’s shocking to think that my competitors are still using the bubble wrap I introduced to the industry in 1987 – that was before the CD player and cell phones!”

Today, Jet Pro holds the exclusive rights to Insulation Products (Patent No.: US 8,292,119 B2) that Keith invented for a cold chain preservation system known as Thermo Defense®, which is a system developed under Keith’s instruction to insulate perishables for both domestic and international travel. This unique and amazing system incorporates materials plus icing technology to maintain the coldness necessary for perishables being shipped by ground, air or sea to even the warmest climates. With the Thermo Defense® system, the perishables are properly packed and stored for transit with temperatures being preserved to prevent heat damage and chill injury to the perishables. The products related to Thermo Defense® represent the only true food safe shipping containers for the air cargo industry. The insulated products are exclusive to Jet Pro’s customers.

Palm trees in California

For example, the Thermo Defense®Jet Pod®” when used as a pallet cover can maintain internal temperatures in the 30′s for a 12 hour shipping period. Jet Pro is convinced other freight forwarders will be hard-pressed to match this service for temperature protection and cost efficiency. Keith points out that unlike the bubble he introduced in the 1980′s, the products (e.g., “PAK® Kontainer” or “Jet Pod® Export”) related to Thermo Defense® and, available only through Jet Pro, place Jet Pro at the top in the “perishable” freight forwarding industry.

Jet Pro’s method of preparing products for air transportation also has evolved far beyond the days of adding bubble to the inside of LD3 containers. Jet Pro has a menu of items that are specific to the commodity type and the needs of the shipper. Jet Pro is passionate about eliminating the risk of shipping by air. “I believe Jet Pro has made huge strides in protecting un-refrigerated air shipments from heat gain and spoilage, but our work is not over yet. We are always working on a better mouse trap.”

Jet Pro’s insulation technology, loading methods, and distribution network are only part of the company’s effectiveness. Jet Pro operates from state-of-the-art cold storage facilities and employs industry leaders to service the needs of the fresh food and flower industry. Customized software and management systems provide the highest quality in customer care, communication, and accounting. Further, food Safety protocols, Security Systems (including video surveillance cameras and employee background checks) all add value to Jet Pro’s freight and distribution services.

In August 2010, the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security mandated 100% screening for all cargo shipments placed on U.S. origin air carriers. This screening mandate expanded by 2013 to include all imports with U.S. destinations. Jet Pro was eager to cooperate with TSA’s efforts to protect domestic and international air travel. At the time, TSA was focusing on X-ray scanners because they have always been the common and customary device for screening passengers, cargo, and baggage.

For our customers, and ultimately the consumer, we knew nobody would be in favor of ingesting radiated food. In fact, many of our “natural food” shippers would prefer not to have their organic or conventional items exposed to X-ray radiation. We, therefore, began to investigate and research screening technology that would provide both thorough and safe screening of perishable air cargo.

Our efforts were successful in that we found scanning equipment (although costly) that we determined was superior for the industry. The process is remarkable in that the scanning is conducted with a low-intensity magnetic field that does not interact with perishable foods. X-ray scanners typically use ionizing radiation to form a picture whereas our scanners use a magnetic field to search for metal compounds. Before putting the system to use, we invited TSA’s representatives to observe it in action and its overlying features in comparison to X-ray scanners. TSA was most impressed with the speed, accuracy, and ease in which our staff scans cargo before shipment; our state-of-the-art scanners were approved by TSA. This approval made us the first U.S. Air Freight & Distribution Company to provide TSA approved “food safe” screening. Today, we continue to use the scanners for all cargo screening, as it provides a safe food method of screening for all product.

During our scanning demonstration, the TSA’s agents were also impressed with our handling operations. We approved their request to use of our facility to assist in their training of field agents. This arrangement has allowed us to work closely with TSA in establishing complete screening protocols for those using scanners of our quality or others.

It should be noted that boxes packed tightly with perishable commodities are too dense for X-ray technology to display a “seethrough” picture accurately. Any failures in the “see-through” feature will set-off an alarm and delay the screening process. This situation does not exist with the high-tech scanners we use, which causes us no delays in getting the screening process completed. Further, many fresh produce items carry a fertilizer residue that can sound off the X-ray scanner’s alarm. Under TSA’s screening protocol, all alarm warnings require a secondary and intense screening process, which includes additional product handling and delays in the shipping process. It is worth noting that our scanners are much smaller than the X-ray units; this means can preserve the cold chain by conducting perishable cargo scans under refrigeration.

Besides our amazing screening system, Jet Pro’s cargo handling operations exceed TSA’s directives. We conduct background checks on all employees, conduct specified training classes, and have installed surveillance cameras at all warehouse entry points and within all cold rooms or areas where cargo is handled, packed, and loaded before transit.

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