Growers work to meet last traceability deadline

05/15/2012 12:39:00 AM
Tom Burfield

The system may have helped the company pull in slightly more business, but the time likely will come when such a system will be mandated before you can sell your product, he says.

Some buyers, especially large retailers, already require it, Ensley says.

Borders Melons East uses the HarvestMark system from Redwood City, Calif.-based Yotta- Mart and Ag-Ware software from ProWare Services LLC of Plant City.

Instilling worker, grower accountability

Strawberries from Wish Farms in Plant City, Fla., are PTI compliant, and the firm is prepared to launch the program for its other products, which include melons, bell peppers, chili peppers and berries, says president Gary Wishnatzki.

The company already had a patented system—Fresh QC from its VirtualOne software division—that tied together the caselevel and item-level traceability.

“We’ve gotten a lot of [return on investment] out of this system,” Wishnatzki says.

He doesn’t claim that he never has a quality issue, but he says, “At least now, when we do, we can trace it back with certainty to where the problem is coming from and hopefully correct the problem.”

The system costs pennies per label, but he says the payback comes from making workers accountable.

“That’s where it’s actually paying for itself in our situation,” Wishnatzki says.

When workers’ names are on the products they handle, “they tend to do a better job,” he says.

That sense of accountability also extends to the growers, who can log in and see comments specific to their farm.

“The payback is improved quality and lower rejection rate,” Wishnatzki says. “When you lower your rejection rate, you save a lot of money. You save a lot more than what traceability is costing.”

Wishnatzki says he launched a traceability program because it was the right thing to do, “but it didn’t take us long to figure out that the system was paying for itself.”

Being on the inside

Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc., however, had a different experience with implementing PTI and found it didn’t pay for itself.

The process helped modernize the company, instilled a sense of discipline and accountability, and enabled the firm to validate for its customers that it is offering a safe product. But that hasn’t made back its cost, says Rob Wedin, vice president, sales and fresh marketing.

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