Mad River Food Hub, Waitsfield, has selected the DEAR Inventory application to provide small value-added processors with a product traceability solution.
In 2011, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently working on finalizing the regulations. This legislation will significantly impact small businesses by increasing food safety regulations, specifically the requirement to have traceability of all products. (Food traceability refers to record-keeping systems that provide the ability to identify the path and the history of an animal, food product, or food ingredient through the food supply chain.)
Recognizing the impact this legislation will have on Vermont's small and emerging food businesses, Robin Morris, founder of Mad River Food Hub, embarked on a quest to provide every small-scale food producer and processor in Vermont with an affordable, easy to implement and easy to use lot tracking system, especially food businesses using food hub facilities, in order to meet FDA, USDA, and market-enforced food traceability requirements.
"Mad River Food Hub is a business incubator for small food processors," said Morris. "Rather than wait for the FDA to hand down the new regulations, we concluded that a food traceability solution would strengthen all Vermont's small food businesses immediately. Our vision was to find a software application that worked in the cloud, ran on Apple IOS and Android devices and interfaced to cloud-based software such as QuickBooks Online."
To implement the three phases of the project, Mad River Food Hub collaborated with the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, a program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board and Center for an Agricultural Economy's Vermont Food Venture Center. In early 2013, Stan Ward, a software professional, farmer and value-added processor, was hired to find a food traceability solution for Vermont small food businesses. Ward developed a paper-based lot tracking system, completed in-depth market research of existing food traceability software solutions and worked with a cross-functional team of Vermont food system stakeholders to evaluate the leading solutions. The reports and other deliverables are available at HYPERLINK "http://vt.foodprotectiontaskforce.com/resources/lottracking" http://vt.foodprotectiontaskforce.com/resources/lottracking.
In late 2013, DEAR Inventory was selected as the solution for small-scale processors. According to Morris, DEAR Inventory was judged to have superior features and usability over the other vendors considered. DEAR Inventory provides an easy-to-use and affordable web-based inventory management system with good lot tracking and food safety recall features.
As part of the agreement between DEAR and Mad River Food Hub, DEAR is providing some functional enhancements to further improve its support of food-processing businesses and is providing special first-year pricing for all Vermont's food businesses.
Stan Ward, co-chair of Farm to Plate Tech Task Force, is currently performing training and pilot testing of DEAR Inventory with eight Vermont value-added food-processing businesses at Mad River Food Hub and Center for an Agricultural Economy's Vermont Food Venture Center. This pilot testing is scheduled to conclude in late March 2014.
Commencing in April 2014, Ward will offer training and technical services to help food businesses get started with their food traceability programs using DEAR Inventory. Funding for implementation of food traceability programs may be available from Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program or other sources.
Funding for this project has come from Vermont Housing & Conservation Board and Working Landscape Enterprise Fund (through Vermont Meat and Poultry Processors Association).