John Bailey has launched Top 10 Produce LLC of Salinas, Calif., which is offering growers economical item-level traceability at a charter rate of $180 per farm.

If growers were to secure their own GS1 databar number from GS1 US, Bailey says it would cost $750 initially, plus a $350 per-year subscription.

Already, several big retailers, such as Walmart, Winn-Dixie and Kroeger, require that all produce carry the unique 14-digit GS1 databar.

GS1 is an international effort of more than 100 countries to standardize electronic identification methods, whether printed or RFID, also known as radio frequent identification.

As part of Top 10's service, Bailey—who's executive director of the company—says it would maintain a database of participating growers' GS1 numbers.

The company also will host a Web site so consumers and buyers could enter the GS1 code and find the farm and its location.

In addition, consumers could rate the farm's produce on criteria, such as taste and quality, and the Web site would maintain a list of Top 10 producers in the different categories.

The offer, which expires Dec. 31, is limited to independent growers who either lease or land on which they grow the produce. They could maintain their own brand name and label, but would be required to go through Agri Label & Tag LLC of Casa Grande, Ariz., to purchase the Top 10 GS1 barcode label. Bailey says the labels cost 0.6 cents each.

The barcode meets the Produce Traceability Initiative, an industrywide effort to develop a common standard for electronic produce traceability.