The firm is a UK-based developer of systems to help small producers gain retail value.
The platform helps producers save time by automatically tracking HACCP paperwork or allowing consumers to access information about where their food comes from.
Martin Coates, managing director, said when it launched FollowThisFood it was the first site to open this data to the consumer.
“The food industry as a whole is under invested in information technology (IT), there is a degree of under efficiency in data that goes along with that,” he told FoodQualityNews.
“Another aspect is the educational aspect, to see track and trace not as a burden but a marketing tool for businesses that do a good job day in, day out.
“We have taken some of the technology behind part of the way SAP does what it does and delivered it cheaper.”
Software platform behind consumer view
NotaZone is a cloud-based software that handles storage, management and tracing of documentation in a central library.
It can store data or documents, and helps with production tracing, quality control, stock tracking, warehouse management, HACCP compliance, documentation management and reporting.
Based on data entered into the system, FollowThisFood re-purposes production tracking data to allow customers to trace products back through the supply chain by scanning a code printed on the packaging to the source producer.
A bar code sticker is scanned into a smartphone and the shopper can learn about where the product comes from and how it was produced, even if this involves global supply chains. Producers can generate and print tracking codes from the website.
Trace back to source
Coates said a local beef product might have just two steps but a pepper from India might go through multiple dealers before it arrives at retail.
“The legal requirements are to trace to source but the food industry has interpreted that as one up and one down,” he said.
“The code [on the product] can connect the consumer to a vast array of important information, there is already what it is and food allergens, that if you are allergic you really need to know, and to compress more onto packaging is getting harder.
“The aim is for the consumer to see where they buy product from, it doesn’t always have to be on the label, it can be on a website if the product is loose or for a local butcher, for example.”
Coates acknowledged not all firms publish every detail concerning their supply chain and suppliers.
“Not everyone will publish everything to do with their supply chain, the manufacturer or producer chooses,” he said.
“To address the gap there is a traffic light system, so goods in the supply don’t get names but you can get information, so for example we can see if all the supply comes from Dorset, it protects the supply base and that stops the competition from moving in.
“There is two way transparency as the farmer might want to see where products have ended up and see the quality at the end of the chain.
“Big retailers like Tesco or Walmart have more money and could have made this happen when they want but smaller more niche suppliers can’t afford the IT department and investment.
“In the primary world you get older farmers who are more comfortable with paper but there is a transition point as the younger guys take over who are used to using technology. Everything printed out is too expensive in an industry that runs on fine margins and with software food fraud is harder to defraud.”
FollowThisFood has been in service for 18 months and is free for consumers to use and the firm is offering a free three month trial to producers.