DelVal Takes Lead in Food Integrity / Traceability Project

Jul 22, 2008

Recognizing the need for ongoing development of methods to protect the nation's food supply and its role in educating the next generation of food industry leaders, Delaware Valley College has taken the lead academic role in an international trial. Participants aim to help food exporters in Australia track food from farms to supermarket shelves and food service outlets in the United States using specialized software and then creating a template to instruct graduate students and the industry in best practices along the supply chain.

Known as the International Food Chain Integrity and Traceability Project, the program is designed to review, develop and test supply chain documentation systems using specialized software to improve the quality, safety, security and business efficiency of food export supply chains. Overall, the goal is to investigate every aspect of the supply process from paddock to shop shelf and will involve Victorian, Australia producers of first beef and then dairy through to their commercial customers in Philadelphia and each regulator and transport and logistics supplier along the chain. Outcomes are designed to protect and enhance the Australian food export business, to protect and enhance food security in the US market and to increase international food chain efficiency.

ICON Global Link, a business management consultancy and IT solution provider specializing in software systems for managing risk across supply chains and specialising in bio-security, process management and regulatory reporting software, will test the electronic documentation system while working with all project participants and members of the supply chains, from growers, logistics specialists and transporters, to the ports of Melbourne and Philadelphia and commercial customers in US markets. Using ICON's software, risk is monitored in every node and process, enabling management of product integrity, pedigree, traceability and chain of custody.

Traceability is of great concern in the supply chain," said Thomas Kennedy, director of Delaware Valley College's MBA program and MBA in Food and Agribusiness.  "Adopting software tracking protocols to increase the safety and security of our food is a priority, and our primary goal for participating in this project is to increase the knowledge of food safety and supply chain management among our students; they will need to understand these concepts in order to be leaders within the industry as well as develop richer curriculum by implementing software into the DelVal Food and Agribusiness MBA program."

According to Kennedy, the food chain is highly vulnerable. Current methods for managing risk in the chain are problematic and primarily manual, but software can help break the supply chain into pieces and combine the details of what happens in each piece to provide full visibility of the chain in order to pinpoint the gaps in safety and security. Though the record-keeping section of the nation's Bioterrorism Act already has larger companies doing a form of tracking, the International Food Chain Integrity and Traceability Project gets more detailed, more comprehensive and global. Every type of activity in every node of the supply chain is captured electronically and stored in databases to allow for quick backtracking in cases where the safety of a given food was in question.

"What we're doing is capturing information on every part of the supply chain all the way through to the consumer, investigating every imaginable input - from what the farmer is feeding cattle, where that feed came from, what shots the vet gave them, where the nearest water well is to the farm and so on" added Kennedy. "A system with that much information stored electronically will be invaluable should a safety issue occur."

"We are the only school in the US offering our students this comprehensive a scope in the area of traceability, but we feel it is an important component to the future of the ag business; our students must be well versed in it," said Kennedy. "We want to educate the next generation of food supply leaders with as many available tools and methodologies as are available. Our students will be at the forefront in using this software and will be highly valued employees and industry leaders as protocols for tracking within our food supply chain evolve."