A national industry initiative to put into place case-level traceability
is underway, and an FFVA member has responded by developing new labeling
By fall of this year, the Produce Traceability Initiative, sponsored by
the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Produce Marketing
Association and United Fresh Produce Association, will strongly
encourage produce handlers and shippers to have Global Trade Item
Numbers (http://www.gtin.info/) and other information on each case of
In response to these fast-approaching guidelines, VirtualOne, a
software company and subsidiary of FFVA member Wishnatzki Farms since
2007, has developed a labeling system ///technology that sounds like
something from a science fiction movie.
“For produce shippers to implement PTI, there is a need to reduce
waste and increase cost efficiency,” said Gary Wishnatzki,
president and chief executive officer of Wishnatzki Farms. “This
new product will answer this need through a revolutionary mix of Macsa
Laser technology and robotics.”
The laser technology was conceptualized last summer and tested in the
fall in Arizona. Wishnatzki filed a provisional patent with the
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in April. The system is expected to be
in beta testing this summer and on the market in the fall. Wishnatzki
hasn’t decided whether the company will market the technology
itself or form a strategic partnership for marketing purposes.
The system uses a fully automated, vision-guided device to mark each
case with a barcode and text that complies with PTI guidelines that call
for all cases to be identified with a GTIN, a lot number and a harvest
or pack date. All information should be in displayed in both
human-readable form and machine-readable barcode.
The unit will occupy three to four pallets worth of space.
“There will be an in-feed, where you set a pallet on a roller bed
that feeds into a turntable section where the labeling takes place. Once
it’s labeled, it’s kicked out on to an outtake
roller,” said Wishnatzki. The entire three-piece unit is about 16
by 8 feet.
The system can be used on any product, however, the product cannot
have any inside stacks on the pallet. “Of course this would also
be true with a print and apply solution. If you are going to label
product after it is palletized, you must address the issue whether it is
laser marked or handled with paper labels,” said Wishnatzki..
Labeling cases of produce for traceability is nothing new, but
Wishnatzki says the Virtual One system offers advantages over current
print-and-apply methods. For one thing, it’s fast, eliminating
bottlenecks in the receiving process. “With the use of this new
technology, our marking time is under one second per box in the testing
phase, which is highly efficient,” he said.
“I truly believe this is going to be a major breakthrough towards
getting PTI accomplished,” Wishnatzki said. “We recognized
the issues that develop with product coming in out of the field and the
bottlenecks that could potentially be created at the cooler level. The
flow doesn’t come in evenly during the day, so accommodating it
with a print-and-apply system would be very challenging. What’s so
great about this solution is you can tag it with a pallet tag just how
you normally do, get it in the cooler, then after it’s cooled you
can burn the PTI marks on the boxes,” he said.
Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Wishnatzki
Farms, believes the VirtualOne technology will be a major
breakthrough towards accomplishiing the goals of the Produce
Traceability Initiative. VirtualOne is a subsidiary of Wishnatzki
PTI’s open-ended wording is a challenge, Wishnatzki said.
“There are too many choices, in my opinion. “Individual
retailers are going to have their own vision of what they want on that
label. That’s impossible to do that in most operations if
you’re trying to do it when the product being received, because
you may not know where it’s going to be shipped when it’s
first hitting your docks.”
With the VirtualOne unit in the cooler, a packer could accommodate
individual buyer demands and mark the cases as they’re going out
Wishnatzki also points out that the technology is cost-effective.
“You’re eliminating the labor factors and the consumables.
There are no paper labels and no ink. It’s just burning a mark in
the box. That makes it environmentally friendly, too.”
The units are also transportable to accommodate seasonal operations.
The three components are stackable and use up only two pallet spaces on
VirtualOne could have used lasers from other companies, but after
several tests the Macsa Lasers offered by ID Technology of Barcelona,
Spain, proved to be superior to others on the market, Wishnatzki
No stranger to traceability
In addition to the rollout of case-traceability solutions, VirtualOne
also offers the FreshQC system, which allows produce to be tracked from
each individual package to the field. Anyone handling a container of
strawberries from Wishnatzki Farms can enter a unique code at www.freshqc.com and offer feedback on the
product, acknowledging the individual harvester’s work.
FreshQC also offers a complete quality improvement system. It
integrates data collection, traceback and payroll capabilities. Data
such as grower, field, picker, time of harvest, variety, planting date,
nursery source and more is stored electronically and can be accessed by
the grower as needed. FreshQC enhances accountability, quality,
productivity, efficiency and payroll accuracy.
To learn more about the challenges that field-packed produce such as
strawberries face under the PTI, read VirtualOne’s white paper on
the FreshQC website.