Food Tracking: More Cherries, Fewer Pits
By Joe Maglitta
Ever marveled at a meal in front of you and mused: “How many people helped bring this to my plate?” Unfortunately, after the recent deaths of 25 people from Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe, you’re probably also wondering: “Who’s touched this?” It’s a very good question.
Food-borne illness kills an estimated 3,000 Americans every year. Some 48 million reported cases cause economic damage of $152 billion, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Such gut-wrenching harm to consumers and food producers has prompted a worldwide push for more stringent tracking of food from farm-to table. In the U.S., the new Food Safety Modernization Act has placed complex new compliance demands on producers.
But before any of you small government types start howling about Big Brother overregulation, consider Cherry Central.
A leading cooperative of hundreds of growers of fruits and vegetables in the United States, the organization recently began using IBM analytics to track its produce to supermarket shelves and other end locations. Besides improving food safety, the coop reports a 50 percent boost in productivity.
“Cherry Central and its trading partners are a microcosm of the entire food supply chain,” explains Steve Eiseler, vice president of operations at Cherry Central Cooperative. Collaboration with IBM and partner N2N Global help the coop “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.”
Sweet, since some 6 billion cases of fruits and vegetables traverse the U.S yearly. Given that volume, spotting contamination or damaging temperatures along the supply clearly is a huge public health plus.
Cherry Central tracks fruit in real time as it’s harvested, sorted, shipped, warehoused, unloaded and finally displayed. As the food moves, key data on location, temperature, date etc. gets captured and analyzed on mobile devices. The data is then uploaded to a centralized database accessible by supply chain trading partners.
The cost savings and productivity boost come from minimizing unnecessary administrative tasks and data entry and capture, freeing up precious staff time and attention.
Cherry Central’s business analytics platform uses an IBM DB2 Web Query running on Power System. The quality and food safety program runs on N2N Global’s Quality & Food Safety Manager solution running on IBM System x.