Technology, ROI, and Real-Time Data in the Produce Industry: A Conversation with DNO Produce
By iFoodDS Team
June 30, 2022
The iFoodDS team and the DNO Produce team recently sat down to discuss the role of technology in the produce industry and how it can generate a return on investment, improve employee retention and training, and drive informed business decisions. It was an engaging conversation with a lot of great takeaways.
The discussion featured 6 panel members:
- Deadra Barnett – Director of Quality and Sanitation for DNO Produce
- Jeremy Taylor – Vice President of Sales and Marketing for DNO Produce
- TJ Ware – Enrollment Consultant for iFoodDS
- Aaron Schneider – Senior Product Manager for the iFoodDS Food Safety Solution
- Minos Athanassiadis – Vice President of Supply Chain for iFoodDS
- Whitney Baker – Director of Customer Success for iFoodDS
Each panel member brought a unique background and perspective, and we were honored to have this chance to exchange ideas with our valued partner. Here are some of the highlights of the conversation with DNO Produce.
Watch the 2-part recording:
Pain Points When Adopting New Technology
Our own TJ Ware kicked off the discussion by posing the question, why is the produce industry often hesitant to adopt new technologies that could be beneficial? Aaron Schneider offered input from his experience in the industry. Two major pain points came up:
- Lack of comfort with technology
- Lack of confidence in digital data storage
A common misconception is that the data is “out there” and freely available after being entered on a mobile device. Paper methods of data storage provide a false sense of security since they involve a tangible record. However, the reality is that almost every technology company has strict data privacy and security policies to protect its customers’ data.
Technology Companies Need to Prove Their Value and Provide ROI
Minos Athanassiadis offered an alternative perspective from his experience working in the growing industry. He attributed this hesitancy to a lack of clear value from technology. “I’ve had too many people approach me with opportunities, with solutions that really didn’t give me any value. … software companies…that want to truly add value need to have a track record.”
Jeremy Taylor asked what technology companies should be focusing on to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) to the produce industry. Minos spoke to the value of a solution that has multiple functions. He pointed out the benefits of iFoodDS’ connected food safety, traceability, and quality management solutions. Having all the data together in one platform adds tremendous value.
Deadra offered a different perspective on ROI in small to mid-sized companies, emphasizing that it can be difficult to demonstrate the value of technology when it’s not as tangible as a new piece of equipment. “[E]very request you make is going to come out of that budget and you have to make sure in your mind, you’ve got to be really sure that this system is going to make a huge difference in what you’re doing.”
Employee Training and Retention Are Improved by Technology
Deadra shared how adopting the iFoodDS food safety platform has helped her team at DNO produce. Employees complete their daily checks much more efficiently now. “The managers are on the floor. They spend a couple of minutes making sure that all their documentation is right at the end of the night. Reviewing things in the mornings takes maybe 30 minutes, 40 minutes for the previous day’s entire QA area, which is significant in fresh-cut processing,” Deadra said.
Immediate alerts through the iFoodDS system also ensure that issues are handled as soon as possible. Lastly, Deadra highlighted the skillset that employees are being taught, which is leading to increased engagement and retention. “Our QA turnover has dropped to zero this year,” Deadra shared. “So we’re keeping those employees, we’re retaining that knowledge, we’re retaining that base. And we’ve promoted from within on the sanitation team and within QA because of that.”
Trust in the Age of the Internet
Another major topic that came up was the role of the internet in pushing transparency in the industry. Jeremy believes we’ll see a major transformation of transparency and trust in the industry. “I’m a big fan of believing that between me and customers … the currency that we…interchange is trust.”
He also spoke to the benefits of transparency for small to mid-sized processors and wholesalers: “I get to level the playing field. … I’m measuring the same thing anyone else is measuring. I’m not going to measure the same amount of volume … but I get a trust factor that maybe I couldn’t have earned before because of my size.”
Real-Time, Digitized Data Is the Future of the Food Industry
The discussion closed on the topic of real-time, digitized food safety data. Minos pointed out that FSMA Rule 204 is coming this year, which will mandate additional traceability recordkeeping for many commodities. He believes that digitized data will become the next big trend in the food industry: “You’ll have one hand tied behind your back if you’re not going to be able to analyze your data efficiently – and you can’t analyze your data efficiently from a notebook or even an excel spreadsheet.”
Jeremy predicted a change in the way vendors are evaluated. He envisioned a future where buyers will demand data immediately since it will be in a digital format and ready for immediate export. “[T]he companies who aren’t ready for that are going to not only lose current customers, but they’re going to lose all new deals because of it and…they’re not going to have those right partners because they’re not prepared,” he added.
Deadra agreed, and even predicted that consumers will demand greater transparency. “[W]e are going to be required to be more transparent to that final consumer as well. … I think there is going to be a lot more transparency in 5 years, in 10 years, it probably will be a lot more public.”
Summary of Key Takeaways
- Lack of comfort and confidence in technology is a major pain point that often leads to hesitancy to adopt technology solutions.
- Technology companies need to prove their value and demonstrate ROI to the food industry.
- Employee retention and engagement can be enhanced with the right tools. This leads to greater retention of your knowledge base.
- Trust has evolved in the age of the internet, and transparency is now more public.
- Real-time food safety data will likely become the next major trend in the industry, and buyers and consumers are going to demand instant access to that data.
Want to explore digital food safety, quality, and traceability solutions for your business? Reach out to iFoodDS for a consultation. We’d like to thank our valued customer DNO Produce for joining us in this discussion. DNO Produce is Healthy Made Easy, providing fresh-cut and wholesale produce throughout the Midwest. Visit www.dnoproduce.com for more information.