Canada´s agriculture industries are intended to be ready to implement traceability by 2012. The goal of this commitment is to further assure the safety and security of the food system in the country, and to provide an internationally-accepted base for continuation of trade and for the development of new markets for Canadian products..
In food processing, most companies have a form of traceability in place, able to provide considerable product and movement information to their customers in food service, distribution and retail. For those looking to meet new requiremetns for traceability, HACCP programs can provide a key to information collection within processing operations.
However, in Agriculture in Canada, especially for farms and their suppliers and primary processing, we are in the early stages of understanding and implementing traceability in our operations. Early requirements have focused on providing information on food safety and biosecurity measures - and the proof of their capabilities - to our customers. While these are key requirements for sustaining markets, it is difficult to see where incremental value can be achieved, to pay for the costs of implementation.
For electronic traceability systems, hardware is readily available that can collect the information customers, and ultimately consumers, require. Software companies have developed excellent programs that are reducing in cost and expanding in capability, and that can work for most every product sector in the industry. Agencies are working toward the registration of agricultural permises and the centralization of industry-level requirements.
So what´s the hold-up on farms and through the initial stages of the supply chain? Two things: there are only a few organizations who have the knowledge to apply traceability to agriculture; and the value that traceability can offer needs to be unlocked, as has been demonstrated in other industries and other countries.
Over the past eight years, eBiz has maintained a close involvement in traceability as requirements have developed, as technology has improved, and as governments have wisely undertaken feasibility and pilot projects. Our principal participated in the original CanTrace committees for small-medium enterprises and for technology in 2002-2003. We undertook information collection for Agriculture Canada concerning the technology of traceability in 2004. We completed feasibility studies in treefruits, oilseeds, wine grapes, strawberries, greenhouse tomatoes, honey, ginseng, fresh vegetables and farm inputs / supplies in 2007-2008. We undertook full implementation pilots in eleven processing operations in 2008-2009. In 2008, eBiz assisted in the operationalization of the West Hawk Lake facility, a key element in tracking the East-West movement of animals in Canada, to ensure that at least partial trade in animals could continue in the event of a disease outbreak in one or another regions of the country. And in 2008-2009, eBiz undertook a GPS-based pilot to identify and track farm service vehicles moving on and off poultry farms in Ontario, culminating in the simulation of a diseased premises and identification and tracking of vehicles that had visited the index farm.
During the past year, we have been principally involved in some of the first commercial implementation programs in Agriculture in Canada. Working with the leading hardware and infrastructure company in Canada, Integrated Traceability Solutions, eBiz has participated in the installation and operation of a cattle identification and age-verification system in six auction markets in Alberta. We are also working with a produce marketing board in Ontario to design a traceability system for a group of producers planning to open new processing opportunities for vegetables. The system is also intended to be a template for fresh product traceability into retail and food service markets for multiple vegetable types.
So at eBiz we understand traceability in agricultural production and food processing, and we have worked on both strategy and implementation of traceability systems.
What about value and payback? In the traceability work we have done in Canada, to date largely focused on delivering information about food safety and security, potential business benefits in the form of reduced product recalls, improved production control, increased inventory utilization, and many more areas of producer and processor businesses have been identified in the feasibility studies and pilots. We believe strongly that while these assurance applications are critical to the business of Agriculture, broader uses for traceability exist, and Agriculture can exploit them. One of the most important is product differentiation.
Product differentiation seems an infrequent goal in an industry that refers to its outputs generally as "commodities". And while there are many clear examples of products that are differentiated on product attributes, such as Omega 3-containing eggs, corn-fed beef, and yogourt with active bacterial cultures, or quality, such as VQA wines, differentiation can appear in other forms. Organically-grown products rely on a strict production process, the local food "movement" offers benefits from a geographic relationship between producers and consumers. All of these chacteristics - product attributes, processes and relationships - that add value and/or assure market access, are valuable potenatial sources of incremental revenue and margin to producers and processors. Traceability functionality, operating in concert with production or business management systems across value chains, can unlock this value, and improve the financial wellbeing of the industry. And eBiz can help.
What Traceability means to us:
eBiz has been watching and contributing to the understanding and experience of traceability in Canadian agribusiness for many years, from research papers, early-stage feasibility studies and implementation pilots in agribusinesses to the capabilities of systems providers in Canada and overseas. As government and industry prepare for the rapid rise in implementation and, yes, investment in traceability, eBiz is ready to support the agrifood industry in its acceptance of these methods and technologies. The Canadian government has made a 2012 target, and eBiz is actively engaged in helping clients establish appropriate traceability systems to meet this target. From value chain application in horticulture to scanning cattle through the auction markets, eBiz is working on models and developing the business cases for traceability in many sectors.
A robust and efficient traceability system is comprised of: product identification, premises identification, and movement reporting. With a uniquely-qualified team of senior practitioners experienced in all aspects of traceability, eBiz can assist in developing or improving a custom strategy that meets the need for a sound traceability system in a single operation or across a supply chain.
Requirements capture is understanding the business needs that are to be delivered by a traceability system. eBiz can provide a focussed and timely route to assessing these needs and to identify systems that can satisfy them.
With an extensive background knowledge on traceability technologies, eBiz can determine which system would fit in your operations or value chain and which technology would be most advantageous and cost effective and help in forming an optimal traceability system, specific to your needs.
eBiz can also assist in the implementation of traceability programs and technology. Our expertise in this field allows us to find and efficiently use the appropriate system for the opportunity, along with our assistance in training industry and staff in its use. eBiz provides ongoing support once the system is implemented in order to insure success and satisfaction with the program.