(Oct. 25) WATSONVILLE, Calif. — ProduceSupply.org is on a mission.

On Oct. 12 at the 2002 Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2002 in New Orleans, Peter Townsend, director of information technology for Driscoll’s Strawberry Associates Inc., Watsonville, said he hopes to see widespread adoption of e-commerce and other supply chain technologies by 2005.

“This is not a trivial effort,” he said. “But a vision needs to be measurable. We wanted to put a stake in the ground so we could have something to work toward.”

Townsend said one of the keys to achieving that goal will be standardization, a concept the group is working on in conjunction with the PMA’s Industry Product Database.

“This sort of network is going to be necessary,” Townsend said. “It’s inevitable, but the last mile is a pain. Standards will make it easier.”

DATABASE APPROVAL

Produce-Supply.org gave its official approval of the database — a listing of commodities and set attributes for those commodities — during the convention. The approval came after a yearlong pilot program the group ran with FoodConnex Worldwide, Auburn, Calif., and Supervalu Inc., Minneapolis.

Townsend said standardization will make it easier for buyers and sellers to adopt new technologies, something the e-commerce companies didn’t see when they burst onto the scene several years ago.

“They put technology first,” Townsend said. “This is for business, it’s not for technology. This can be evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary.”

Townsend said moving forward will depend on how the database is accepted by the industry.

“It can work if it gets traction in the industry,” he said. “And that’s an if. It can crater. Very smart ideas get derailed all the time.”

OTHER INITIATIVES

Produce-Supply.org is also working on other technology initiatives for the industry. The group is working on secure peer-to-peer messaging, a concept in which buyers and sellers can have direct access to each other’s databases, without the use of a middle man.

“It’s going very well,” Townsend said. “Once it’s in place, all the buyers and sellers do is agree to do business and tell their Information Technology guys to hook it up.”

The group is also trying to create electronic document standards for other document languages in addition to electronic data interchange. Specifically, the group is working on standards for XML, or extensible markup language.

Townsend said he doesn’t expect XML will replace EDI, but rather the two will continue to coexist in the future.

“XML is very smart if done right,” he said. “EDI is unwieldy and inflexible, but it works.”
For more information, visit the group’s newly redesigned Web site at www.producesupply.org.