(June 11) A little more than four months after they introduced a track-and-trace tool for the berry industry, partners Corporate Express U.S. Inc. and YottaMark have expanded and renamed the system to serve a wider array of growers.

“BerryTrace was the original application that was used,” said Dennis Francis, vice president of label development for Corporate Express Document & Print Management Inc., Omaha, Neb. “The success of that led us into a much broader product base, and we’ve rebranded that as HarvestMark for any field-packed product.”

Redwood City, Calif.-based YottaMark and Corporate Express introduced BerryTrace at a food safety summit Feb. 6. That was just a few months after a berry company, which the partners declined to identify, approached YottaMark in the wake of an E. coli outbreak linked to fresh spinach.

In HarvestMark, a coded label — manufactured and distributed by Corporate Express — is attached to a clamshell. That code contains information including harvest location, the date the product was picked, what crew picked it and the variety. Anyone throughout the supply chain, including the consumer, can access the information online via a platform provided by YottaMark.

Francis said the system is cheaper than radio frequency identification. While master containers often carry product and lot information, he said tracking at the unit level has been limited until now.

“Once the individual clamshell was taken out of the master container and placed on a shelf for consumers, traceability was lost,” he said. “There was a need to trace at the unit level. Our product allows that to happen. Consumers can use that label on the clamshell to trace that unit back to the field. Consumers need confidence that the products they purchase and consume are safe. That’s what our system does — give confidence all the way through the supply chain.”

Samir Tuma, vice president of sales and marketing for YottaMark, said the system is simple.

Labels are applied to clamshells as they are packed. The first clamshell in a box is scanned, as is a label on the outside of the box. The system remembers the code from the last clamshell packed in the previous box, creating a range of numbers in each box.

In the field, a crew supervisor scans the outside of a box before it is opened. He then scans a laminated card that contains information on the field, crew, variety, etc.

“The pickers aren’t involved at all, so we don’t affect their productivity,” Tuma said.