Editor’s note: This is the third installment of a four-part series on how companies can use electronic record keeping to enhance food safety efforts. The series is sponsored by PAR Technologies.    

As companies transition from paper-based food safety records to digital platforms, managing the increased amount of data can become challenging, especially when passing it up and down the supply chain in a usable format. 

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“The challenges cut across sectors and actors: There are too many systems with too many formats,” says Drew Zabrocki, CEO of software and application programming interface company Centricity Global. “A majority of resources are spent on duplication of efforts and pushing paper – digital or otherwise – instead of making a meaningful impact on food safety, sustainability or social mindfulness.”

Along with the extensive time and money resource it takes to channel multiple data collection platforms into one usable source, the issue of who owns the data and how it is shared between supply chains then comes into action.

  • How much should data be shared between supply chain partners? 
  • How are supply chain partners notified when updates are made to shared data? 
  • How does this shared data become revalidated back into different systems? 
  • If there is a food safety compromise that happened because shared data wasn’t fully analyzed, who is liable? 

According to Zabrocki, these are just a few of the many significant questions that led to the development of Trellis Framework, a collaborative brainchild between the Produce Marketing Association, Purdue University’s Open Ag Technology & Systems Group and a few select industry partners including, Centricity Global. 

At first look, one of the most unique components of Trellis Framework is that it’s a decentralized open source – meaning it belongs to no one and is free to use, with data being owned and controlled by its original source. However, one of its biggest benefits is the ability to translate data from multiple platforms into one universal language and source. 

“If you are a seller of products, you may have to put your data into five or ten different systems. For example, if you want to do business with Walmart, Wholefoods in the US and Tesco in the UK, you have to import your data into each of their very different systems,” Zabrocki explains. “Companies are having to manage all this data, which is typically not well organized in PDFs and spreadsheets, and are spending a lot of time resource shuffling paperwork around instead of analyzing the data that is available to them. 

However, Trellis Framework can bring all the software together so that people don’t have to keep re-keying data. Most importantly, it removes the middle-man collecting fees for simply hosting the information of others.” 

Making a smart transition
When it comes to finding the right provider to work with when utilizing digital records, Zabrocki urges companies to be diligent in finer details that may have a huge impact on their future business. 

“In this digital age, if you don’t own exclusive rights to your data, you’ve already lost. Read the fine print and ask the questions of who owns the data, and who all owns your data,” he explains. “And remember, you don’t need to go it alone – there are multiple resources and people to help you.” 

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