Blog's from the Chair

Getting Blockchain Ready :  Three Conceptual Overhaul Suggestions

By Dr. Hans Maurer, New Zealand IFPS Director and chair of the Chain Information Management Committee

In my earlier comment piece entitled "Blockchain: myth or salvation?", I touched upon the need for a conceptual overhaul in the way our industry works to give Blockchain technology a chance to succeed. 

Three suggestions for such an overhaul are the need to accept GS1 standards as an integral part of product and grower identification; to settle upon an appropriate and consistent procurement strategy and then stick to it; and, to adopt the 7th Principle of Supply Chain Management (Anderson et al, 1997).


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By Dr. Hans Maurer, New Zealand IFPS Director and chair of the Chain Information Management Committee

The short answer is – neither! Let me explain.

On the technical level, Blockchain is very much a reality.  Not only is Blockchain technology being used to underpin the cryptocurrencies we hear so much about but a myriad of mature business sectors are beginning to investigate or even use Blockchain technology in an attempt to solve some of their inherent challenges, such as achieving better traceability.   Not surprisingly, the Fresh Produce Industry globally is up to its armpits involved in such pilots, as are notable retailers such as Walmart, Carrefour, and others.   Blockchain is, therefore, most certainly not a myth but fast becoming a reality.

Is Blockchain technology the salvation to all the produce industry’s problems relating to traceability?

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I am pleased to announce that Sinclair Systems International LLC has joined the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) as an associate member and will be represented by Kelly Kirschner, Vice President of Global Marketing. Sinclair pioneered the development of automatic fruit labeling systems over 25 years ago, and now operates in 35 countries worldwide. Sinclair is wholly dedicated to the global fresh produce sector.

In other news, IFPS will be a lead sponsor of a new fresh produce technology conference SMART Horticulture Asia. This one-day conference will take place during ASIA FRUIT LOGISTICA on September 08, 2016 in Hong Kong. SMART Horticulture Asia will be the first conference for Information Management, Standards & Technology for Asia’s fresh fruit and vegetable sector. The congress is designed as an annual knowledge and networking hub in Asia on digitalisation and standardisation in the fresh fruit and vegetable sector.

In Mexico, the industry led initiative to implement PLU Codes labeling for fresh fruit and vegetables continues to proceed well with cooperation among retailers, suppliers, ANTAD, GS1 Mexico, PMA and IFPS. Retailers Walmart Mexico, Chedraui, Calimax and HEB Mexico are in the final stages of their implementation with retailers Merco, Arteli, Centro Comercial Cruz Azul, La Comer, Soriana and Alsuper in the early stages of their implementation. The participation from across the entire Mexican fresh produce supply chain continues to grow with over 40 Mexican industry leaders attending the last steering committee meeting for the initiative in Guadalajara on March 17th 2016.

And finally, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, IFPS has received its first application from a French grower/shipper for a new PLU as some French retailers are using the IFPS PLU codes in their stores. IFPS is working with GS1 France to gain an understanding of how many retailers are using the IFPS PLU codes in their stores. 

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As chair of the IFPS, I am very happy to report that the usage of PLU Codes at Retail Grocery stores is being adopted in Mexico. Mexican Retailers, Growers and Wholesalers formed an industry led initiative to implement PLU Codes labeling for fresh fruit and vegetables. This implementation is being supported by IFPS, PMA, GS1 Mexico and ANTAD. The initiative has 3 implementation milestones; 
  1. Labeling of first 26 commodities by September 30, 2014 
  2. Labeling of remaining  135 commodities by March 30, 2015
  3. Addition of DataBar Barcode on PLU Labels by December 31, 2015.

For more information on this initiative, click here.

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I am honored to have been elected as the Chair of IFPS at our Board Meeting in Brussels on June 18, 2013. 

Ongoing focus to achieve the goal of IFPS, Global Harmonization of Fresh Produce Standards, was made very clear to me during our visit to the Belgium New Fruit Wharf in Antwerp. The IFPS Board toured Dole’s vessel unloading and storage operations. During the very thorough tour and presentations by Danny Lippens of Dole, Tom Quets of Capespan and Luc Buellens of Belfruco, we observed the challenges that had to be overcome to accommodate each customers unique case and pallet labeling requirements. This reinforced the need for a global standard for case and pallet labeling that would result in increased efficiencies for all trading partners, just one area where the combined efforts of industry from across the globe can eliminate inefficiencies and unnecessary financial burdens in the supply chain.  To that end, I am pleased that IFPS was able to facilitate the alignment of the work that was done in Europe and North America to ensure that standards being developed are global. 

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The one thing that one can learn of the Fresh Produce industry is that it’s a dynamic world. Just had our Spring Board meeting in Chile where we also visited some Chilean Fresh Produce companies. A lot of innovations are here already implemented. Modern facilities ready to serve the market with safe and tracked & traced fresh fruits.

Looking around the world a lot is happening. The US industry is moving forward with the Product Traceability Initiative. Implementing tracking & tracing on container/box-level fully compliant to the GS1-standards from field to fork.

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Tom Stenzel is President and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, a Washington, DC-based membership association serving the fresh produce industry from grower through retailer.  Founded in 1904, United Fresh represents the interests of small family businesses to the largest international corporations in the global produce supply chain, with members throughout North America and in 30 countries.  United Fresh is the pre-eminent policy-oriented trade association shaping the U.S. produce marketplace, and has a special focus serving the growing fresh convenience and fresh-cut industry globally.

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Welcome at our new webcommunity

At PMA 2009 in Anaheim, one of Barack Obama’s senior campaign managers had been invited to deliver a keynote address.  The focus of that address was the use of interactive social media in getting people across the United States to turn out to vote.
The point he was trying to make in November 2009 was that during Obama’s campaign in 2007 and 2008, leading up to the Presidential election in November 2008, the use of social media was limited.  Yet there he was in October 2009, 11 months after the Presidential election, stating that if he were in campaign mode at that point in time his main tool would be Twitter – a platform not available to them in 2007 and 2008.
The point of this little anecdote, fellow members of the global produce industry, is that we are living in a world of rapid change – in a world where not only our technology is changing rapidly, but also the way in which we are behaving and interacting with each other in every facet of our personal and professional lives.
IFPS determined in 2008 that it had a purpose beyond the allocation of PLU numbers and the IFPS Board has, since that time, quietly worked at extending its influence on behalf of the global produce industry with a variety of organisations and bodies all involved in considering, developing and implementing standards that impact on our industry.
This new IFPS website serves the purpose of pulling together the various IFPS activities in the areas of Food Safety, Product Identification and Supply Chain Information Management in one easily accessed format.
Please come and visit us regularly.  We look forward to continuing to be of service to the global produce industry at large on matters of global standards

Dr Hans Maurer,

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To satisfy the needs of international customers, the PLU codes list has been translated into FrenchSpanish and Portuguese.