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EU Fresh Info Forum

How Walmart put traceability on the agenda

Automation, standards and IT solutions are not the most popular topics for many people. Yet these are the sectors that will change the fresh produce sector in coming years. Those who move along with these changes, have a future, those who stay behind, do not. That was the thought that brought about 300 people to the third EU Fresh Info Forum aboard the SS Rotterdam.

“On Tuesday, we were on a Techtour, and I brought everyone to an orchid nursery,” says Harrij Schmeitz (pictured right), honorary chairman, during the opening. Participants feasted their eyes there. The greenhouse contained about 10 million orchids, which were all provided with an RFID chip. “IT can strengthen the sector,” Schmeitz tells the visitors.

Walmart and traceability
“A standard has no use if it is not being applied,” says Pieter Maarleveld, manager of GS1 Netherlands. He is therefore committed to supporting companies in the implementation of standards. It was the power of a large retailer that encouraged implementation in the US, according to Ed Treacy, chairman of IFPS. Traceability of products was slowly being implemented, until Walmart recognised the importance of it and sent a letter to all suppliers. In a short time, 53 per cent of all products had traceability. “The small companies are the challenge,” says Treacy. “They do a lot of business over the phone, and employees do not think in terms of traceability.”

Eline Dams, Cegeka.

Glenn Bainathsah and Dennis Stolwijk, Axians.

Hans van Luijk, chairman of Frug I Com and manager of Van Nature Growers, indicates the importance of international agreements during the opening of the event. “Eighty-five per cent of our products is exported, but many countries have a national vision. There is no European or international standard,” he said. Because of that, many different standards are now worked with. He pleads for an international standard instead. 

Ed Treacy (IFPS), Pieter Maarleveld (GS1 Nederland) and Hans van Luijk (Frug I Com) during the opening of the forum.

"If This Than Tesco"
However, technological developments take things further. The forum is not just about standards, bar codes and traceability. Technique can provide improvements in various ways, from robots in greenhouses to savings in logistics. Or, as Schmeitz says, towards the consumer, with IFTT (If This Than That), for example. The Tesco app can be set up in such a way that an order is automatically placed at the supermarket if a condition is met. For example, you are nearly out of milk, the refrigerator places an order. Or the so-called BBQ effect: the app checks the weather forecast, if temperatures rise, an automatic order for hamburgers for the barbecue is placed. “If This Than Tesco,” Schmeitz changes the acronym. 

Jurriaan Pasma, Descartes.

Bart Bakker and Paul Tijssen, GoldfishICT.

The BBQ effect can also be seen in the Netherlands. When temperatures rise, the number of online orders for hamburgers increases for the Albert Heijn supermarket, Schmeitz knows. Cause: the shelves are empty, but there is still supply online.

Mats Jacobs, Marlie van Meer, René de Graaf and Benny Dor, Schouw Informatisering.

Harriët Goossens and Vincent den Breejen, Greenlinq.


However, the use of data goes one step further. A study into the sales of strawberries shows that the sales of strawberries increase when the soft fruit is placed next to yoghurt in the refrigerated section. But that effect does not exist when it is the other way around. Cause: customers who buy yoghurt, are looking for a nice dessert, and therefore pick up the strawberries. Customers who want strawberries, are looking for fruit, and not for yoghurt.

Petra Geesink and Kim Bader, GS1 Nederland.

Robin Puthli explains 'digitally sealing' containers.

Those types of blurring will be seen increasingly often, according to Schmeitz. He has a few examples, such as suppliers of apple slices and almonds or apple slices with cheese as a sports snack.

Carl Vermelis (AIM Benelux) and Iris Bronwasser (Indicium) talk about the information that can be placed on a label for shipment.

Frank Smits, Mieloo & Alexander.

Bas Hermans, Zebra Technologies, presents a data logger during a short demonstration round along the stands.

The concept partially changed, the location remained the same, just as the programme chockfull of representation of the developments in automation and IT. In the coming days, we will publish more articles about the lectures held during the forum.

Sharon Janmaat-Bouw in conversation at the stand of Rotterdam Food Cluster.

Thijs Verkuijlen, Capgemini, presents Scio.

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