Since the launch of the first “app” in 2008, mobile applications have redefined the way we interact in our daily lives. Now apps are being used as professional tools in a number of businesses, including the food industry. Developers are taking advantage of the power of mobile devices by creating apps that allow food professionals to perform their jobs more efficiently, whether it be in factories, laboratories, or corporate headquarters. Below is a sample of various apps available that are helping to create the food industry of tomorrow.
Dr. Guido Schnabel, plant pathologist at Clemson University, has cultivated a new smartphone app series that promotes disease prevention in fruits. The apps MyIPM-NED and MyIPM-SED offer disease management in fruits such as apples, pears, cherries, cranberries, peaches, strawberries, and blueberries, while MyIPM-SEP focuses mainly on pesticide prevention. All MyIPM apps are available on Android and iOS mobile devices and tablets for free. MyIPM features dozens of diseases specific to each crop along with high-resolution photos and audio to assist in an easy diagnosis. The app’s interactive outline of control options include a list of registered sprays for each disease. Other universities, such as Penn State and Cornell University, have collaborated with Clemson to further develop the program by utilizing different crops. The app is specifically helpful for food specialists who grow and sell fruit as it provides quick information and supplements current spray guides.
Funded by the California-based Center for Produce Safety, Ag Water is the first app to offer science-based water quality predictions for a variety of locations. The complimentary app was designed by University of Arizona researchers to assist crop growers in meeting nationwide mandates for food safety. AG Water can be downloaded using iTunes or Google Play on any device that receives a Wi-Fi connection, including mobile phones, tablet devices, laptops, and desktops. Ag Water has the ability to predict the quality of a water source in real time; to accomplish this, the app utilizes location, historical water quality data, and weather information from the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Arizona Meteorological Network, and other stations. The app allows for better compliance of the national water quality and produce-related regulations put forth in the Food Safety Modernization Act. Ag Water includes step-by-step instructions to minimize produce safety concerns.
With Formitize, created by Mobile Interactive Technologies, practically any aspect of a company can be stored and updated using the app. Administrators can maintain scheduled jobs, create reports, and monitor activity using the Management Portal while the drawing tool is especially useful when creating and importing floor plans. The Safety First module uses customizable, comprehensive risk assessments and incident reports to ensure safety at any level of the food industry. The app also has an email log and form builder to accommodate company members— a great fit for organizing inspection logs. Platform is supported by iOS and Android devices, and is also accessible on a web browser by visiting the Formitize website.
USDA MPI Directory
The USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service has created a free app supplying 24/7 access to information on meat, poultry, and egg production establishments. The USDA MPI Directory app is pursuant to the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act, by allowing consumers to view necessary information about their meat and poultry products. All of these products are required to have a USDA mark of inspection and establishment number, which is assigned to the production site. The app, available for Android and iOS devices, allows users to search an establishment by name, number, establishment type, location, or inspection type. The user can then see where and when the product was made and who made it, this providing better communication between the establishment and consumer. App requires no Internet connection after initial download, which means users can look up food information anywhere, at any time.
Spotter, a mobile app for iOS and Android tablets, was created by ENVOC to allow streaming of the inspection process. The app’s customizable features allow the user to create and manage inspection questionnaires, checklists, and information for virtually any business. This is specifically useful for grocers and the hospitality and meat industries that requires protocol inspections. Practically any inspection—from facility cleanliness to employee evaluations—can be done, eliminating the need for paper forms. Users can upload current forms using the Spotter portal and utilize media by adding photos, videos, and audio to the inspection process. Administrators can manage assets and perform audits with greater efficiency as Spotter is projected to reduce inspection times by 87 percent. While the app is currently available exclusively to iPads and tablets, Spotter developers are working to create Spotter as a mobile phone application as well.
The new European FoodSmartphone consortium is working to detect harmful substances in food at the touch of a button. This approach to food monitoring has been awarded close to $3 million from the European Research Executive Agency, as RIKILT Wageningen University & Research and institutes from five countries work to create the app. Currently, food samples are required to go through a production chain to be registered and checked for contaminants, causing days to pass before receiving lab results. The FoodSmartphone programming would allow the tests to be uploaded by inspectors on the app, providing faster information between inspectors, manufacturers, and possibly consumers. While a launch date for the app has not yet been released, Wageningen researchers are also developing a food scanner app that would provide users with the origin and content of a food product. These new scientific developments will ensure the accuracy and quality of food products through a more sustainable line of communication.
Robles is an editorial intern for Wiley’s U.S. B2B editorial division.