A global food supply chain quality solutions company has helped Australian supermarkets streamline fresh produce donations to a major charity during the COVID-19 pandemic, while concurrently reducing the amount of food waste. iFoodDS and Woolworths were recognized as a Tech Innovation Award finalist for their work in streamlining donations to Foodbank by PMA Australia-New Zealand.
iFoodDS, through its Harvest Mark platform, has been working with Woolworths, Aldi and Countdown to improve the process of donating excess fruit and vegetables directly from the Distribution Centres (DC), particularly to Foodbank.
Regional Manager Ilango Surendran says that his company is able to provide specifications centrally, and uniformly manage quality control (QC) across all the DCs. This gives the produce suppliers the ability to select an option to donate fresh produce, meaning there is less time for the product to sit on the DC floor because there are fewer people and departments involved in the logistical process of getting the stock delivered.
"Foodbank will be able to pick up their donated product on the same day," Mr Surendran said. "It has really streamlined the process. These products only marginally miss the (supermarkets') specification requirements, so it may not fit the perfect size, colour or freshness that the retailers want to sell, but if it is donated in a timely manner, it means that it is not being dumped by the suppliers or retailers. We have been able to reduce the food waste from the DCs while helping people in need."
As listed in their Hunger Report 2020, Foodbank distributes its food and groceries to over 2,400 charities nationally, and as of December 2020, more than 44,500 cases of produce have been donated by produce suppliers through iFoodDS services.
"COVID changed things so much, but Woolworths recognised that this was needed before the pandemic," Mr Surendran said. "This not only streamlines the process and gains shelf life, but it increases the amount of donations because it is so easy for suppliers to donate the product. We have not only helped the suppliers reduce food waste, but also increased the donations to Foodbank. The Hunger Report highlights the need for greater donations because there are more Australians going without meals. From my perspective, this has been significantly important for the community in need."
Prior to becoming regional manager in Australia and New Zealand in 2016, Mr Surendran spent 17 years working for international technology companies Trimble and Minorplanet Asia Pacific in the transport and logistics department. He says the iFoodDS and Harvest Mark technologies have been developed with the "paddock to plate" concept in mind, meaning it has been adopted from growers right through to retailers from a quality management and food safety perspective.
"We are able to provide a food safety status on each and every product that has come out of the farm or the packhouses," Mr Surendran said. "Certainly, there has been a big uptake in the United States. Here, in Australia, we have started working with suppliers as well, with companies such as Perfection Fresh Australia, N&A Group and Green Skin Avocados."
iFoodDS was launched in 2013 to provide software solutions to manage extensive data requirements of food safety programs. iFoodDS acquired HarvestMark, the leading provider of food traceability and quality management solutions, in 2020. The combined company offers a comprehensive food supply chain platform for safety, traceability, and quality management.