Elliot Grant was the kind of kid who would take apart a television to see how it was put together. Now, Elliot, 39, is helping build traceability solutions and enjoys the complexity of applying technology to solve fresh produce industry challenges.

London-born Grant, founder and chief marketing officer of YottaMark, Redwood City, Calif., is the son of an engineer and himself has a PhD. in engineering. “Solving problems is what I live for,” he said.

In fact, Grant said he has filled a couple books on his shelf on ideas for products that he may someday get around to building. “I have working on that for 20 years.”

YottaMark’s HarvestMark unit has been involved in providing PTI-compliant traceability solutions to the fresh produce industry. He relishes the challenges that come his way, calling the process of being handed a business problem to solve “a great gift.”

“Being asked, ‘Can you help me?’ — that’s what I can get my teeth into.”

One example of problem solving this year has been HarvestMark’s involvement in creating a voice-pick algorithm for distribution centers that takes a product's GTIN and lot numbers and creates a unique four-digit code to allow tracking of outbound cases without scanning each case.

“When there are opportunities like traceability but those opportunities have barriers, the engineer in me wants to find out ways to go around the barriers and blow the barrier up completely,” Grant said.

HarvestMark values are listen, learn and innovate, Grant said.

“Solving problems in my mind is making things easier, cheaper and better — and nobody loses,” he said.

Grant is willing to be creative to find solutions when others may want to find fault, said Dan Vache, vice president of supply chain management for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association. “He is a relatively new and very bright addition to our industry.”

Coming out of the electronics and semiconductors industry, Grant sees opportunity for industry growth in fresh produce.

Grant said the Produce Traceability Initiative and the industry’s progress toward supply chain traceability are just getting started, with more suppliers now beginning to embrace traceability solutions.

“It is not the beginning of the end, it is the end of the beginning,” Grant said. “There will be new challenges no one has anticipated but on the other hand there will also be new opportunities that no one has anticipated and we’re already beginning to see those.”

In fact, he said HarvestMark is prepared to announce an opportunity related to traceability at Fresh Summit convention in Orlando, Fla., in October.

“We came across an opportunity that I don’t think anyone had seen before,” he said. “That’s why I say I’m excited about this space. There is opportunity everywhere we look to make the produce fresher, higher quality, lower cost and get consumer even more excited.”

Grant said he looks for the industry to see more upside in traceability. The vendor community is maturing and the standards-based criteria for success are emerging, he said.

“Two years ago there were 23 companies at PMA who said they do traceability,” he said. “Realistically, now I would struggle to think of more than a half a dozen who have really done it and actually have a substance and a credible product.

If people are looking for solutions, they will find them in traceability, Grant said. “What I see is such a great opportunity to make what is already a fabulous product even better,” he said. “Five years from now, we will look back and say it’s amazing we didn’t see this opportunities before.”