Food safety is a key pillar of the greenhouse operations for each grower. Any type of food safety risk impacts not only the grower operations, but our competitors, and most importantly, consumers.
As seen in any produce outbreak, the entire industry suffers from the problems of one operation. It is paramount that growers make food safety the foundation of their business. We have identified three key areas as a focus to mitigate the risk of food safety: innovation, automation and control.
Innovations continue to offer better food safety support for greenhouse growers.
For example, integrated pest management, water filtration systems, best handling practices and quality control systems are some of the important elements in eliminating this risk at the grower level.
These programs allow the grower to control environmental variables and inhibit the developmental microbial growth in produce.
Automation reduces the risk of contamination and cross contamination simply by reducing or minimizing the introduction of foreign specimen.
Automation also reduces the frequency of damage to produce through the handling and packaging process. As technology advances, farms are able to increase their yield while maintaining the same greenhouse footprint to meet consumer demand.
Implementing control protocols will also improve food safety. Biometric systems benefit growers by tracking who was with plants, what was done, and when.
Once a crop is harvested, the produce is set up in a PTI (Produce Traceability Initiative) system allowing traceability from the farm to customer delivery.
Employing a stable and permanent workforce gives your greenhouse the ability to train, monitor, and enforce food safety protocols, drastically reducing the risk of human error. Educating the greenhouse workforce, ensuring a greater understanding of protocols have been successful tools for Red Sun Farms in providing better control.
“At Red Sun Farms, we operate our greenhouses with a stable workforce, and treat every day like audit day,” says Harold Paivarinta, director of sales at Red Sun Farms.
In the end, growers must focus their investments around innovation, automation, and control to ensure continued safety measures. Any investment focus in these areas will mitigate the risk of food safety to our greenhouses.
Editor’s note: Jim DiMenna is CEO of Red Sun Farms, which produces 17 million cases of fresh produce annually, and has twice been named as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies. Red Sun Farms is based in Leamington, Ontario, which is near Canada’s southernmost point and home to the highest concentration of greenhouses in North America.
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