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The Mighty App

Mobile technology is the real deal for improving safety and efficiency

In a fast-moving industry like produce where seasonality, ripeness, and flavor can be fleeting, mobile technology would seem to be an ideal and valuable complement—so much so that we covered this subject in 2012. A great deal has changed in five years, but one thing hasn’t—there’s still some resistance within the supply chain to adapt. Fortunately, there are also ample signs the industry is finally ripe for a mobile revolution.

On-the-Go Support
Yes, there seems to be an app for nearly everything, and this has become increasingly true for the fresh produce industry as well. There are apps for many business functions, ready to measure and monitor product quality, track and expedite transportation services, or provide on-the-go support for field sales personnel with order entry, document processing, and mobile data management.

Some are proprietary, while others have a more universal appeal. “An app is designed,” believes Dan McGrath, market specialist at C.H. Robinson Worldwide/ Robinson Fresh in Minneapolis, MN, “to go immediately to the heartbeat of the company that designed it. In the produce industry, we’re bombarded with information relative to crops, yield, flavor profile, seasonality, supply increases and decreases, and price increases and decreases.”

The possibilities are truly endless, but which apps are most valuable and really live up to the hype? Is the technology easy to use with considerable ROI? We talked to industry members on both the buying and selling sides and a few software developers to find answers.

Demand for Mobile Tech
According to an international study conducted by Peerless Media in Framingham, MA for Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions in Golden Valley, MN, mobile tech-nology is high on the shopping lists of logistics managers across many disciplines and business categories, with more than a third planning to increase spending in the area.

Among the most sought after technology are programs to modernize operations and shave costs; coordinate devices and remote access; and manage data streams—all of which translate into the fresh produce industry. Resulting benefits run from optimizing labor resources and improving warehouse accuracy to streamlining inventory management processes.

With perishables, traceability and food safety are paramount—so it should be no surprise that today’s apps span from field to fork. There are apps to measure soil conditions, such as moisture and fertilizer levels, and others to monitor product during harvest, ripening, processing, or packing. There are also apps to track temperatures and pallets from loading to delivery, and sales tools galore to measure and showcase product, track inventory, eliminate redundant paperwork, and simplify the entire ordering process.

Practical Applications
We’ve established there is no shortage of mobile apps, but not everyone in fresh produce is using them. Some cite com-plexity and the inevitable learning curve that goes with the technology; a few lament the difficulties associated with small screens and tiny buttons, and others simply haven’t taken the time to research the cost or benefits. Advocates, however, have jumped happily on the bandwagon and are reaping the rewards.