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Houser's Produce Farm Implements RFID Tracking for FSMA Food Traceability

TallyFlow asset management software delivers quick visibility into the supply chain and meets new regulations for food safety

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Introduction

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) section 204, also known as the FDA Food Traceability Final Rule, requires businesses to keep records for certain foods to protect public health. On November 21, 2022, the Final Rule, titled “Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods”, was published. It outlines the critical tracking information (CTEs) and key data elements (KDEs) that each producer must keep.

 

Starting out as a home vegetable sales stand, Houser’s Produce Farm (Houser) has grown and expanded operations over the past 30-plus years into several thousand acres of total crop land. Houser started selling to individuals, then to local grocery stores and has gradually expanded into major supermarket chains. They are well-known for their fresh produce with quick field-to-store stocking cycles.

 

Faced with an outdated barcode system, and desiring to bring their operations into compliance with FSMA 204 regulations, Houser sought a solution that would be compliant with FSMA and would improve the efficiency of their operations. RMS Omega and SDG Systems teamed with Houser to implement a solution based on rugged Zebra RFID technology paired with SDG Systems’ TallyFlow Asset Management software with traceability.

The Problem

Houser’s Produce Farm installed a barcode tracking system several years ago. The tracking system provided some basic asset tracking information, but it was slow to record each box of produce, used out-of-date hardware and was difficult to retrieve sales records. Mr. Houser expressed, “It was faster for me to look up items in Quickbooks by date and food type than it was to use the barcode system.” With the upcoming deadlines for FSMA compliance and cumbersome use of the barcode system, Houser sought a new solution that would work with RFID, be efficient to use, and be compliant with the new regulations.

 

The Solution

Since 2018, TallyFlow has been helping businesses transform their asset management, providing a mobile and cloud-based solution. Supporting barcodes and RFID, the mobile and web applications provide intuitive user interfaces with tracking, traceability, inventory and management functionality. TallyFlow implements an easy-to-use solution for tracking assets through the entire workflow that Houser required, from boxing produce to storage and shipping.

 

Working with RMS Omega as the system integration partner, SDG Systems and RMS Omega provided a complete solution offering to Houser including TallyFlow software, Zebra scanners, mobile printers and RFID labels. RMS Omega provides comprehensive hardware maintenance, RFID tag supply, installation and services. 

 

To maintain compliance with the FSMA standards, TallyFlow can generate and use GS1 tags. The tags are encoded with a lot number, company prefix, product identifier and serial number. The GS1 tags allow shippers, grocers and compliance officers to quickly identify the farm and product from either the barcode or the RFID tag. TallyFlow also records the invoice numbers and other information that is essential to Houser’s implementation. Using both parent and child tags allows TallyFlow to quickly move individual or groups of items.

 

Implementation

Initial Steps

TallyFlow uses GS1 tags for global traceability. Producers register with gs1.org in order to obtain company and product identities. Once these are obtained from GS1, the producer can enter values into TallyFlow settings for the mobile application to correctly generate the tags required for traceability. Houser has approximately a dozen different types of produce that they sell.

 

Packing

While packing boxes of produce or other FSMA-regulated foods, TallyFlow Mobile prints GS1-compliant RFID and barcode labels for a box or pallet (a parent tag of the individual boxes). Encoded into each box tag is the producer, the product number, a lot number and a serial number. TallyFlow uses its product-category feature to determine which product is being packed. For example, a category of Cucumbers GS1-01 will use product ID 01 to associate with the product being boxed. A worker will place these tags on the boxes. When printing a parent tag, such as a pallet tag, each subsequent box tag is associated with the parent until a new parent tag is created or cleared. TallyFlow Mobile adjusts the lot numbers and serial numbers automatically.

 

Shipping

During the shipping process, the producer will scan or enter an invoice number or other identifier with the shipment so that the items are associated with this invoice. Employing optional parent tags for grouping assets together, a producer can move a pallet or group of tags together with a single scan.  In the TallyFlow web application, users can search for items by lot number, product type, specific tag or invoice number.

 

Results

In pre-season testing, the TallyFlow system performed according to the needs and expectations of Houser’s Produce Farm. Workers were able to generate pallet tags and item tags based on the produce that was being boxed.  The mobile software was convenient for them to print multiple labels at a time to place on boxes, then scan a parent tag to ship the entire pallet. 

 

Conclusion

Houser’s Produce Farm was on a mission to update their existing food traceability system and to become compliant with the FSMA regulations. By implementing the TallyFlow RFID system, Houser is now able to easily and conveniently ship their produce to grocery stores with full traceability. The TallyFlow cloud and mobile software associates the customer orders with the lot number and type of produce using GS1 GTIN barcode and RFID tags. In the rare case of a food safety concern or recall, Houser is prepared to address such issues. 

 

The Food Safety 204 regulation deadline is quickly approaching. The regulations require full traceability of produce and other foods. Businesses have until January 20, 2026 to comply or face financial penalties.

 

Learn more

If you would like to better understand how TallyFlow can help with FSMA compliance, please visit our TallyFlow FSMA Compliance page, or contact us if you would like to see an online demo.

 

For general information about TallyFlow, please visit our TallyFlow asset tracking page.

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