Cherry Central, a domestic cooperative of hundreds of fruit and vegetable growers, announced last week it’s now using IBM analytics technology to achieve “true visibility” as their products move from their co-op farms on through the supply chain. 

In the announcement, IBM noted that the high cost of foodborne illness outbreaks — an estimated $152 billion annually in the U.S. — has led to partnerships between technology and food companies to solve the problem.

In the wake of dozens of high-profile outbreaks “governments around the world are proposing more stringent regulations to better protect consumers from food borne illnesses,” says IBM. “A breakdown at any point in the food system on the farm-to-table spectrum can cause catastrophic harm to the health of consumers and great disruption and economic loss to the food industry.”   

They note that more than six billion cases of fruits and vegetables alone travel across the U.S. each year.

“As it travels through various points of the supply chain, there are possibilities of this food being exposed to temperatures or other factors that could lead to its contamination.”

Cherry Central is collaborating with IBM and business partner N2N Global. The company is now able to track data from the time fruit is harvested, sorted or processed, sent to distribution warehouses, and finally unloaded and placed on display counters at grocery stores or ingredient buyer locations.

All of this activity data is now collected, viewed, aggregated and analyzed in real time.  
“Cherry Central and its trading partners are a microcosm of the entire food supply chain,” said Steve Eiseler, vice president of operations at Cherry Central Cooperative. “This collaboration is helping us create a well-connected and visible food supply chain to make it easier and faster to track the food items we market, while allowing us to spot trends as they’re occurring real time.  This visibility is enabling is to take proactive measures to ensure food safety and ultimately protect the consumer.” 

Last year, IBM partnered with the Thailand government to launch traceability programs for chicken processors and mango growers in the country. See Food Safety News‘ coverage here