GS-1 barcoding and traceability services for small family farms and organization of regional grower-owned cooperatives.

Award Information
Department of Agriculture
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
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Small Business Information
110 ALAMEDA ST, Salinas, CA, 93901
Hubzone Owned:
Minority Owned:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Victor Pham
(714) 423-1510
Business Contact:
Victor Pham
Vice-President of Operations
(714) 423-1510
Research Institution:
Our small American farms are disappearing because they are unable to compete with larger domestic or international farming operations. To make matters worse, a growing number of retail chains require that their suppliers employ sophisticated traceability technology, but small farmers do not have the resources to provide traceability due to the high price and time commitment incurred to implement existing traceability systems. As a result, small, local growers will be increasingly shut out of retail chains. The Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) is an industry-wide effort, intended to move the supply chain to a common standard for electronic produce traceability by the end of 2012. The plan involves adopting a standardized system of case bar coding for all produce sold in the United States, to allow product to be tracked throughout the distribution chain. If it is successful, the plan will maximize the effectiveness of the industry's current traceability procedures, improve internal efficiencies and assist public officials when they need to quickly trace back a product to narrow the impact of future recalls. However, a significant challenge to the plan's success has been smaller growers' reluctance to adopt the GS1 technology required for participation, because the technology can be expensive for a very small operation to acquire and implement. A GS1 manufacturer's number is required before a small grower can label any of their cases of produce for traceability under the system required for compliance with the PTI. The cost of a manufacturer's number can range from $750 into the thousands for the first year, with subsequent annual renewal fees that varies depending on a company's annual sales. For the struggling small to medium sized grower, even $750 is too steep a price to absorb. Through consumer education and demand-focused marketing, Top 10 will ultimately increase competition in the domestic market for premium produce, and will increase awareness of locally grown produce in the American market. The GS1 traceability system will encourage fair pricing and increased access to high quality, safe domestic produce and this should increase domestic demand. As the consumer becomes informed about fresh produce, and are educated through demand-side marketing, the public will make a shift toward a healthier diet. Increased consumer awareness and education may increase consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables. Sustainable and organic growing methods will become popular with the consuming public and sustainable practices will be more profitable due to increased consumer awareness and the resulting demand for sustainable produce from smaller farms. This will act as a catalyst in the farming community, encouraging farmers to achieve a higher sustainability rating and develop more sustainable farming methods, therefore protecting the environment for future farmers.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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