Quality Control, Big Data, and the Battle for Big Blueberry Supremacy

According to a recent Fresh Plaza article, today’s competition in the global blueberry market is juicer than ever. Well-established exporters, who for years dominated the blueberry game, are now starting to feel the squeeze from an influx of emerging fruit growers in countries like Peru, Mexico, and Morocco. In fact, Big Blueberry is getting so bloated that it’s starting to resemble Violet Beauregarde after snatching the most amazing, fabulous, sensational piece of gum in the world from the hands of Willy Wonka.  

Blueberry quality control blog

As a result, retailers all over the world now have more options than ever when shopping for a blueberry vendor. With so many options available, and with prices plummeting accordingly, the winning suppliers will be those who can provide the best quality control over their berries…which, for a variety of reasons in recent years (worker hygiene, sanitation practices, pesticides, microbial hazards, transportation conditions, etc.) has been no easy task.

Those who neglect quality control (as the Wonka clearly did) will eventually be rolled out to the proverbial juicing room and never heard from again.

Where have all the good blueberries gone?

An inspection of samplings from last year’s harvest revealed that only 43% of examined blueberries landed in the "good" category. More (44%) were considered "fair" while those considered to be "poor" and "bad", accounted for 11% and 1.7%, respectively.

Finally, just 1% of all blueberries were considered to be "excellent".

blueberry quality infographics

Clearly these numbers are unacceptable, but what can blueberry farmers do to improve? Well, since blueberries are easily contaminated at any point along the farm-to-table food chain, it’s critical that inspections and audits are performed and documented every step of the way. It’s no longer good enough to simply check for contamination and then move on. Instead, farmers must find new ways to get better, to learn from their mistakes and turn the quality of their blueberry harvests from substandard to excellent – and maintain that status from farm to table.

How on earth do they do that, you ask? The answer is audit software.

Yes, data is the key to achieving optimal blueberry quality and freshness. After all, how can you get better if you can’t prove where things are breaking down? How can you go from “poor” to “excellent” if you can’t pinpoint where the poor crops are coming from? Hint: you’re never going to pull it off if with a few sheets of paper, a clipboard, and some manual data entry that can sometimes take weeks or months to complete. You’re going to need to get a lot more sophisticated than that.

A solution like Form.com can help blueberry farmers around the world gather valuable data by performing inspections and audits on a mobile device from virtually anywhere, even using offline forms without internet access. A custom Form.com inspection app integrates seamlessly to backend legacy systems, so you can tie safety inspection and/or safety audit data in with the rest of your operation. They also feature automated forms workflow, task management tools, and reporting functionality to help you make better decisions.

Perhaps the best part of Form.com’s mobile apps is that they let you take advantage of all the cool features embedded in your mobile device. For example, you can use the camera on your smartphone or tablet during an observational audit to capture and draw on photos before attaching them to a form or sending them off for review. You can even use your device’s built-in clock and GPS to pinpoint exactly when and where each individual inspection or audit occurred. The only thing we haven’t figured out how to do yet is help Willy Wonka fix the dessert portion of his three-course dinner chewing gum. To this day, it always goes wrong when they come to the dessert. Always. 

Interested in learning more about how Form.com can help you improve quality control? Contact us today for a demo!

Scott Regan