He was unhappy having to choose between standard office programs and existing dedicated applications for keeping food safety logs.

So Doug Walcher Farms’ Robert Holthouse decided to go into the software business.

He cofounded Orizant, whose Sapphire food safety software www.sapphiresafety.com began a gradual rollout in December. By then it had stood up to multiple audits at North Fairfield, Ohio-based Doug Walcher and Willard, Ohio-based Holthouse Farms.

Holthouse is food safety manager at both operations. Orizant’s clients now include growers in five states.

A basic principle of Sapphire is that data is more audit-ready if a food safety log is unalterable – a challenge for digital formats. It can allow for comments and notes, but the log should be permanent.

“If you try to log with (Microsoft) Word or Excel, that data can be changed after the fact,” Holthouse said. “It’s hard to get it through an audit unless you’re always thinking about signing off again on the file. Because users can never change data once it’s in Sapphire, it’s auditable and make audits go a lot smoother for me.”

“There’s software out there that will do it, but most of it is prohibitively expensive for somebody our size,” he said.

Food safety spans many systems — chlorine/chemicals, field inspection, irrigation inspection, water quality and so forth — that complicate an overall log. In Sapphire, users see one entry at a time — where any corrective action will also be recorded — and only the log relevant to their task.

“You can set the software up to automatically force the user to create a corrective action,” Holthouse said. “If the chlorine is too hot, they have to do a corrective action. If they enter the wrong data, they have to do a corrective action before the log is submitted. So I know they’re not skipping things.”

In early testing at the two Ohio operations, Sapphire went through two Primus Labs audits, a U.S. Department of Agriculture audit and an Ohio Department of Agriculture audit without problems, Holthouse said. He gave auditors a login and password to scan logs on screen. A printout option is available.

Time stamps are set not just for users but for the manager who archives logs, establishing oversight without resort to signing and filing.

His wish list required a technical basis. “My wife and one of my best friends had a programming background,” Holthouse said, referring to his Orizant partners.

It seemed more of a need than a wish, though, to view logs on a smartphone.

“We farm a 60-mile radius around our family farms,” he said. “I could go a couple hours in any direction checking on fields. When I’m gone, I’ve got two packing sheds I’m not keeping track of. Or if I’m at one packing shed, I can’t watch the other. I wanted to find a way to track it all from my phone.”

“There’s no more paperwork review because I’m seeing the data as it’s entered,” he said. “If somebody isn’t entering the log, I know that too.”

Within about a month, a mobile app is expected to be released to enable use when a phone lacks an Internet connection.

“It’s a matter of building up a user base and making sure we get more features out,” Holthouse said. “If somebody wants something different, we’re able to build that into the software. As we build up a good base we’ll start pursuing customers more aggressively.”