Growing public demand to know where their food is coming from is putting increasing pressure on smaller vegetable, fruit and flower producers who still use paper-based systems to ditch these outdated methods in favour of a digital solution.
Based in Bourne, Lincolnshire, Consus Fresh Solutions has developed a cloud-based software system to help with quality assurance audits and the traceability of fresh produce.
“One of the biggest issues facing producers is that each retailer can have different requirements for size or ripeness and varying specifications for shelf-life,” says Derek Thompson, co-founder of Consus.
“Confirming these requirements are met before the produce leaves the packhouse is essential to ensure the customer accepts the goods, and can reduce the burden of daily and weekly audits.”
Many producers have increased the size of their quality assurance teams to meet these ever more stringent targets set by industry bodies such as Red Tractor and the Soil Association.
The new paperless system has been developed with growers including Castleton Farms and Polly Bell Organic Farms, with the technology able to highlight specific issues with batches and detail costings to show profit margins and how much each pack costs to produce.
With a few clicks the pallet can be tracked right back to its source, as unique labels and barcodes are created with a thermal printer and attached to each consignment, giving detailed information of the produce’s history.
Currently, the system works on Windows and Android platforms. It can be run on a PC with Windows 8 or above, with touchscreens and tablets.
For a typical small/medium grower, the Consus licence and cloud hosting will cost about £1,000/month. There is no capital outlay, but a decent internet connection is needed to get full use from the system.
Remote help is included in the licence fee during weekdays, with an extra package for weekend support available, while there is a charge for installation if required.
The company says the system could be adapted to track grain movements, doing away with paper passports. Development time to make the needed changes would be minimal.
The Consus system complies with BRC Global Standards and reports can be generated to meet the varying needs of auditors and retailers.