From Farm To Plate: Using Analytics To Make Safer Foods
I had a friend who was recently impacted by one of those contaminated cantaloupes.
Fortunately, she only got sick and didn’t perish from listeria, but 23 others were not so fortunate, and over 100 more also became very ill.
These type of outbreaks cost $152 billion a year in the U.S. alone, with 48 million food-related illnesses and 3,000 deaths a year. Governments around the world are now proposing more stringent regulations to better protect consumers from food borne illnesses.
A breakdown at any point in the food system on the farm-to-table spectrum can cause catastrophic harm to the health of consumers and great disruption and economic loss to the food industry.
More than six billion cases of fruits and vegetables alone travel across the U.S. each year. As this food travels through various points of the supply chain there are possibilities of this food being exposed to temperatures or other factors that could lead to its contamination.
In response to this challenge, IBM today announced that Cherry Central, a leading cooperative of hundreds of growers of fruits and vegetables in the United States, is using IBM analytics technology to provide true visibility of food items as it travels from the farm to supermarket shelves or ingredient buyers locations.
Using analytics technology, the food producer and marketer has improved productivity by 50 percent.
Eat, and Track, Your Fruits And Vegetables
To ensure the safest food products reach the shelves of grocery stores and ingredient buyer locations, Cherry Central is collaborating with IBM and business partner N2N Global.
With IBM analytics technology, Cherry Central is tracking data from the time fruit is harvested, sorted or processed, sent to a distribution warehouse, and finally unloaded and placed on display counters at a grocery store or ingredient buyer location.
All of this activity data can now be collected, viewed, aggregated and analyzed in real time, all with a few clicks of a mouse.
Additionally, workers now can use mobile devices to record key information, such as date, time, location, temperature, and all aspects of quality and food safety compliance.
The information is uploaded to a centralized database, where it is stored and can be accessed and shared by their supply chain trading partners.
Each time the food moves or is handled by someone new, the data can be updated thorough mobile devices, recorded and aggregated instantaneously to provide a complete, accurate picture within its operations.
This, in turn, minimizes unnecessary administrative tasks and data entry, allowing management to focus more on business growth than data capturing.
Cherry Central can now more precisely record incoming fruit from growers, track the food items through their operations and monitor and report on all critical control points such as refrigeration and processing temperatures, thus improving the overall traceability and visibility of the products they handle. These new capabilities are helping Cherry Central track food from harvest to dinner table to avoid contamination pitfalls.
“Cherry Central and its trading partners are a microcosm of the entire food supply chain. In working IBM and N2N Global, we are taking advantage of a solution that tears down the barriers and complexity of the food supply chain,” said Steve Eiseler, vice president of operations at Cherry Central Cooperative.
“This collaboration is helping us create a well-connected and visible food supply chain to make it easier and faster to track the food items we market while also allowing us to spot trends as they’re occurring real time. This visibility is enabling is to take proactive measures to ensure food safety and ultimately protecting the consumer.”
Paper, Plastic, Or Analytics?
One of the major challenges for Cherry Central is to provide better transparency and usability of its data that is growing at the rate of 1.6 million records per month.
Many in the food industry still use paper-based solutions that produce paper checklists and questionnaires to perform audits and inspections on their fruits and vegetables and processing/packing systems .
As paper forms are returned to the office, they are “manually” entered into the computer leaving room for human error, generating mountains of paperwork and the possibility of misplacing files — making it more difficult to pinpoint the source of a possible contamination, causing costly and potentially critical delays.
Now, with analytics technology, Cherry Central is not only capturing this data, but using analytics to create real business outcomes from it. For example, processing data can be analyzed real time and decisions can be made immediately rather than waiting hours or days until the data is compiled.
In addition, all small businesses are impacted by federal regulations and government mandates. Small businesses operating in the food industry, however, have additional layers of regulations and mandates defined by federal and state agencies such as the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.
The new Food Safety Modernization Act as well as industry trade association standards have added new and complex compliance demands to the landscape.
Cherry Central’s business analytics platform provides product traceability consisting of IBM DB2 Web Query running on Power System. Its quality & food safety program runs on N2N Global’s Quality & Food Safety Manager solution running on IBM System x.
If you’d like to learn more about IBM’s Smarter Food initiatives, visit here.