Digital Food Safety Plans: Leveraging technology to overcome one of the major challenges of farm food safety compliance

26 Apr 2024


While we understand that each farm faces its own unique set of challenges, it’s generally recognised that the biggest challenges facing Australian farmers are drought, climate variability, biosecurity, global competition, consumer preferences and more recently shortages of labour due to Covid.

“The weather, commodity prices and labour are foremost on farmers’ minds”

In addition to these very real macro challenges farmers are also facing increased pressure through the supply chain with the demand for fresh, high quality and safe produce. Keeping produce safe is vital because it affects everyone (consumers, wholesales and growers) within the food system.

Growers are the key to produce safety on a farm. They’re the key decision-makers for their farms because only they know their day-to-day activities—from production practices, to who works on the farm, and all the other details involved in running a successful business. For this reason, growers need to be involved in assessing food safety risks and developing the farm's food safety plan. Making the choice to do something on the farm is up to the growers because they know their farms best.

Actions to reduce food safety risks impact not only the financial viability of farms but also the health and safety of those who consume the produce grown. All farms, irrespective of size, location, or commodities grown, can and should reduce food safety risks.

Conceptually farmers understand the importance of managing food safety risk.  However, with so many competing demands farmers are finding their resources and time are being stretched and food safety gets put on the back seat in preference of more pressing immediate threats to their livelihood. 

“The weather is a real threat now, the possibility someone getting ill from your produce is only that - a possibility!”

Two of the most popular food safety schemes used by Australian growers and packers to meet their local customer demands are the Freshcare and HARPS food safety and quality schemes.  

HARPS stands for the Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme (HARPS). It harmonises all retailer-specific food safety, trade and legal requirements of each of Australia’s major grocery retailers, into one scheme that all these retailers accept – so, instead of having numerous individual food safety audits, there is only one.

Freshcare (FSQ4.2) is a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is the current recognised food safety and quality standard that provides growers and grower-packers with the essential on-farm good agricultural practices and post-harvest food safety criteria that are required to be met and maintained to assure customers of the quality and safety of the fresh produce produced.

With limited time, resources and uncertainty in the labour market, achieving and maintaining food safety certifications is not easy.  Successful compliance requires strong systems and paperwork as well as a good food safety culture.

The Freshcare Standards have helped build food safety culture within the Australian fresh produce industry since the launch of the Program in 2000.

Through the embedded continuous improvement cycle, promoting program ownership and management commitment, a focus on training and development of workers, and the application and implementation of the program across the whole business, the Freshcare Standards have been the driver for keeping food safety front-of-mind, for Australian businesses in the fresh produce supply chain.

Understanding that paperwork and food safety compliance is not naturally in a farmer’s wheelhouse, EyeOnRisk has created the first “easy-fill” digital Food Safety Plan builder specifically for Australian growers that is protected by the security of the blockchain.

The Food Safety Plan Builder is a user-friendly digital tool to quickly and easily create all the Freshcare and HARPS documents needed to achieve and maintain certification.  The entire portfolio of Freshcare templates have been put into a digital format.  All that needs to be  done is to customise the form with your company details and logo and fill in the records.

The Food Safety Plan Builder is packed with heaps of benefits, all aimed at making it easier for growers with limited time and resources and achieve and maintain certification while allowing them to do what they do best.

“Spend more time Growing”

Some of the key features of the cloud based digital Food Safety Plan Builder include but are not limited to:

  • 1.      Moves paper records and documents into a digital format which makes sharing, auditing and document control much easier .

  • 2.      Digital signatures and blockchain capabilities prevent document fraud and provide a higher level of trust and transparency.

  • 3.       It’s intuitive “easy-fill” templates make documentation less burdensome

  • 4.       It contains all the latest Freshcare and HARPS forms in one easy to access area

  • 5.       Reduces on-site audit time by allowing auditors remote access to all forms before and after the audit

  • 6.       Allows auditors access to correction act