Meeting The PTI Milestones

Meeting The PTI Milestones

Ed Treacy

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Designed to help the industry maximize the effectiveness
of current traceback procedures as well as standardize the industry approach to enhance the speed and efficiency of traceability systems in the future, the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) has the right intentions at heart. As the PTI’s final rule or “milestone” is due to be met this year, growers are expressing concern over the cost and effect the initiative will have on them. The final milestone (number 7) involves reading and storing data from labels on outbound cases of produce.

Disagreements over what size and type of operations should be held to the expectations abound, and general concerns of the unknown changes to come were echoed on our online discussion forum, www.producecommunity.com, where conversation went back and forth between who is responsible for traceability and how to comply with the initiative.

Ed Treacy, vice president of supply chain efficiencies with the Produce Marketing Association, weighed in, saying, “The buyers have the same expectations of traceability, regardless of size. Like with food safety standards, there is the same set of rules for everyone. Traceability is one component of food safety, and the buyers and sellers of produce cannot allow a smaller operator to function with a lower set of standards than the big suppliers.”

When questioned about the cost and feasibility of traceability software, Treacy explained, “In the beginning, the first technology companies on the market were focusing their efforts on the big grower. Now they are realizing that there are smaller companies that need a simpler and less costly solution. There are products out there that only require Internet access and a printer. It’s manual, not integrated, but for growers with 20 to 30 acres, that may be all that’s needed. There’s a big market out there with the smaller grower.”

What follows are questions from  growers and responses directly from suppliers of traceability solutions.

Kurt Alstede
Alstede Farms, Chester, NJ
300 acres, beets, beans, tomatoes, peppers

As Alstede Farms sells all of their produce directly to consumers, eliminating the middle man, Alstede says it is unnecessary to utilize a program to track produce, thus, he would like to know:

Would traceability software be applicable to an operation with produce that is entirely direct marketed?

“Our software is applicable to anyone who needs PTI compliance or inventory management.  The purpose of PTI is to enable traceability through the supply chain. If a grower sells all of their produce directly to consumers, PTI does not apply to them.”
– Chris Davis, COO, Redline Solutions

“CaseTracker by HarvesterGear was originally designed for packers that sell produce without having a direct connection with the end user. However, any grower/packer with multiple farms and fields could find benefit in limiting their exposure, narrowing down a problem in the event one arises.”
– Daniel Price, Business Development, HarvesterGear, Inc.

Chris Blanchard
Rock Spring Farm, Decorah, IA
15 acres, shallots and fresh herbs

As a direct operator, Blanchard is concerned about the cost of maintaining an electronic traceability system. Blanchard would like
to know:

Why would an electronic system be better than a well-designed paper system on a small farm?

“With electronic records, FDA can quickly trace produce through an entire supply chain. During the 2008 Salmonella Saint Paul incident, the FDA reported that working with paper records from multiple members from the supply chain was the primary reason for the delays in sorting through the information and identifying that the actual issue was with peppers, not tomatoes.”  
– Chris Davis, COO, RedLine Solutions

“Most paper-based systems that we’ve encountered have worked very well for many years. But, they start falling apart when experienced employees retire, leaving the new-hires with the task of trying to re-learn the experience that just walked out the door. A computerized system standardizes operations at a very simple level that’s really easy to learn.”
– Steve Schoneman, President, Schoneman, Inc.

Robert Trax
Trax Farms, Finleyville, PA
325 acres, sweet corn, melons, peppers, beans, tomatoes, squash

As a grower of both fruit and vegetables, a cider maker, and a
reseller delivering mixed loads, Trax says he doubts any software could fit his operation. Trax asks:

How do you tailor your software to each individual grower?

“Our software (RedLine Field) was created in partnership with growers, many of whom grow several commodities. Based on their input, our solutions were designed with flexibility from the ground up. We start each deployment by understanding how the grower’s operations run today, then walk through the set up options to ensure a ‘best fit.’ We have different software modules for harvest, packing, and cooler operations, so our customers get tightly integrated software that addresses their needs in each area.”
– Chris Davis, COO, RedLine Solutions

“Each of our modules is sold separately. The system is highly configurable to adapt to the way each company works. We understand that we must not disrupt a company’s existing workflow processes.” 
– Ray Connelly, President/CEO, TRUETRAC

Chris Pawelski
Pawelski Farms, Goshen, NY
100 acres, red and yellow onions

Pawelski says he is worried about committing to something for fear he won’t be able to back out if it doesn’t work for his operation. Pawelski would like to know:

If I purchase the software, am I bound to using it according to your company’s regulations?

“RedLine Solutions does not have any regulations and we are not the ‘traceability police.’  The only ‘checking up’ we do with our customers is to see if you have any questions we can answer or if you need more labels.”  
– Chris Davis, COO, RedLine Solutions

“Companies are free to use the system as they see fit and the data is never shared by anyone except you. Each user is granted its own secure database. Each customer’s database is private and can be used in the way that the licensee deems useful for their organization.” 
– Ray Connelly, President/CEO, TRUETRAC

Brian Campbell
Brian Campbell Farms, Berwick, PA
1,000 acres, broccoli, sweet corn, pumpkins, leaf lettuce, cauliflower

Concerned about the requirements of the upcoming PTI, and wanting to be sure he is following what is required of him, Campbell asks:

How will your software help growers be in compliance with the Produce Traceability Initiative?

“VistaTrac implements all seven milestones of the PTI. Since VistaTrac is modular, you can start out with just labeling (milestones 1 through 4), and then move into the remaining milestones at a pace that is right for your business. However, the goal of meeting the PTI milestones should be
secondary to the goal of running your business.”
– Steve Schoneman, President, Schoneman, Inc.

“HarvesterGear’s traceability software, caseTracker, was not fully implemented until the final best practices and decisions regarding the Produce Traceability Initiative were determined. We also have a guarantee that our software will meet or exceed all requirements set forth by the PTI currently and for the future.”
– Daniel Price, Business Development, HarvesterGear, Inc.

For more information on the software provided by each company, the Produce Traceability Initiative milestones, and Wish Farms’ solution to traceability, go to the next page.