Intensifying global concerns over food safety has significantly raised the ante on recordkeeping throughout the supply chain. On the modern farm, documenting practices is a big job, requiring the production of accurate and accessible reports that can help turn food safety concerns into buyer confidence.
Faced with the formidable task of feeding a global populace predicted to reach 10 billion by 2050, the agrifood industry shoulders the enormous responsibility of growing more food as efficiently as possible. Data management will play a critical role in this life-sustaining mission.
From field to fork, industry stakeholders are managing data to mitigate safety risks and drive safety improvements in the food supply chain. Through more industrious documentation and recordkeeping, companies are increasing the transparency of their food safety programs in response to public demands and regulatory mandates, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
Under FSMA, which became law in 2011, establishments that fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are required to evaluate and identify food safety hazards, implement preventive controls, and document those measures.
Data Management Horizons
With its passage, FSMA raised the onus on companies to capture, manage, and analyze supply chain data. But decades before the enactment of the landmark legislation, scores of food operations had long embraced data as an essential quality assurance tool. During this time, clusters of forward thinkers—who were enthralled with the promise of the flourishing Internet—believed that a fast-moving technological revolution would someday give rise to high-tech data management systems.
Much of this promise was realized in 2004, with the introduction of a cloud-based software platform from Agrian, a small start-up enterprise based in an underground parking garage in Fresno, CA. The trailblazing platform—the Agrian Processor Account—provided agricultural retailers, crop advisors, agronomists, growers, food handlers, and processors with a single source to capture information from the field and send information electronically to stakeholders.
From its humble beginnings, the organization has gone on to become the premiere agricultural software platform provider in the U.S. with a broadening global presence in Canada, Mexico, South America, and Australia. Agrian was the first company to recognize the importance of a single software platform that links the agronomist, the grower, and the food processor all within one system.
Several business metrics, such as net profitability ratios, sales indicators, generated leads, and converted opportunities, are typically utilized to measure a company’s success. Another critical yardstick in evaluating an organization’s long-term prosperity hinges on its ability to cultivate and retain satisfied customers.
The Morning Star Company, one of California’s largest tomato processors and a chief supplier of ingredient tomato paste and diced tomato in the U.S., has employed Agrian as a major hub of its data management system since the platform’s roll-out.
Speaking from a perspective shaped from working in the agrifood industry for 30 years, Renee Rianda, a Morning Star colleague specializing in pesticide sustainability, delivered a ringing testimonial for the innovative platform.
“I don’t know if I could go back in time and do without it…especially when you compare the Agrian platform to other [electronic data management] options that are out there,” she says.
Currently, the Agrian Processor Account boasts over 200,000 users worldwide and offers a wealth of benefits. Through its web-based service, field-level users and processors can share pesticide use reports in real-time, eliminating the need for repetitive data entry and taxing paperwork. In addition, the platform can track the use of crop-protection products and create crop-forecasting formulas through its customization capabilities.
Noting that the system’s features are continuously expanded to meet the evolving needs of subscribers and streamline compliance reporting, Rianda particularly relishes the time efficiencies that the Agrian platform affords to subscribers.
“After everyone gets on the same page regarding what data are needed, the set-up of the system is instantaneous,” she states. For platform users, the amount of time needed to review data is significantly reduced due to the ready access to information. Moreover, built-in platform safeguards foster confidence in the accuracy of entered data, according to Rianda.
Morning Star, with over 400 employees at three locations and industrial sales of approximately $350 million, contracts a vast network of suppliers across the nation’s largest state to deliver quality products and services. Supply chain management authorities are quick to point out that spreadsheets and enterprise resource planning systems are often insufficient for managing copious amounts of data, most notably in networks of considerable size and scope.
Rianda, who often assists in onboarding new Morning Star suppliers, said it is only natural for some companies to be reticent about changing their documentation processes, but the advantages of the Agrian platform are undeniable.
“Once they see the benefits and ease of tracking information with the software, they recognize how much better the system is for their operations,” Rianda explains.
Field of Dreams
In farming communities everywhere, there is nothing more majestic than a golden harvest. Against this traditional backdrop, Richard Machado, president and co-founder of Agrian, said the agrifood industry is becoming more reliant on data information to advance the business of farming in the 21st century.
“With Agrian, paper is completely removed,” states Machado. “All data collection is entered within the software and stored within the Cloud. Growers and processors know exactly which crop-protection products were used, the dates applied, and other essential application details. Data are easily queried to render the preharvest interval (PHI) to clear a field for harvest. Within an account, users can even customize a list of crop-protection products to check against during the season or at harvest, and the list can be updated in real time.”
Customized crop-forecasting formulas, he adds, can be created using the Agrian system. Detailed GIS/GPS mapping of all growing sites allows for the identification of potential hazards from surrounding crops or other sources.
Portfolio for Growth
Now headquartered in Clovis, CA, Agrian has enjoyed a highly successful run and plans to build on an impressive record of growth, according to Machado, a former head of the Fresno Economic Development Corporation and an area farmer for over five decades.
To buoy its growth, the organization possesses an impressive portfolio of assets, including the world’s largest manufacturer-indemnified database and a fully mobile-enabled platform. Agrian’s database contains more than 11,000 index labels featuring crop-specific rates, and restricted entry interval and preharvest interval timelines. With a mobile app, iPhone, or iPad, users can access reports, programs, and the Agrian database in the office or in the field.
“At Agrian, we are committed to be on the cutting-edge by providing enhancements to our global platform,” Machado says.
The award-winning software platform is currently available in multiple languages, including Spanish, Canadian-French, and Portuguese. Going forward, more linguistic offerings will be added to meet the needs of developing regions abroad.
Agrian is dedicated to providing global subscribers with expansive tools and technologies to help address pressing challenges, ranging from export requirements to sustainability initiatives. In today’s information-driven world, a centralized data platform is an invaluable commodity that agrifood companies should not do without.
For more information, visit Agrian.com.