Having access to accurate forecasts and yields for coming seasons is vital for both fresh produce growers and grocery retailers when it comes to ensuring accurate planning, reducing costs, and avoiding duplication and delays at every opportunity. Produce Business UK investigates the major steps that have been made in data technology that does just that
A crucial factor in making sure correct data is available and avoiding difficulties is the availability of adequate software solutions; something that Paul Hardy, managing director of UK software company Affinitus, says has only recently become possible.
“Technology has finally caught up with what we wanted to be able to offer clients five years ago,” he explains. “The rise in use and drop in price of tablets have given users access to much more information and we can develop relatively inexpensive applications that our clients and their customers can use easily and with assurance that the internet will be fast enough to not hinder those solutions.”
As a company, Affinitus has been providing software systems to the fresh produce sector for almost 25 years and to the catering and foodservice industry for close to 20 years, under the auspices of its Freshware and Chefserve brands respectively. In total, over 250 companies in the UK now make use of the Kent-based firm’s software products.
In fact, Hardy estimates that some 70% of fresh produce wholesale companies in London’s New Covent Garden Market utilise Affinitus software.
Now there is a further tool to support Affinitus’ stable of products in the form of Agrilogik, which has been specifically designed for the technical departments of fresh produce companies, according to Hardy.
A new development for Affinitus, Agrilogik will be launched during 2015 following a trial with existing Freshware clients. The software, says Hardy, is aimed at assisting in the management of information necessary when handling fresh produce, such as quality assurance and the documentation kept alongside this and quality control once fruits or vegetables arrive.
Agrilogik has been further extended to include labour force management regulations as required by law, as well as field-based handheld devices that can be used to capture harvest information.
For the company as a whole, Hardy says the last 12 months have been a hugely significant period in development terms, with the complete redevelopment of all Affinitus’ handheld applications to be compatible with the latest android software tools.
Affinitus’ managing director argues that the central factor in the company’s success, whether it be in fresh produce or foodservice, has been its ability to provide products that give clients a full picture containing data from every area of their business.
“Freshware is unrivalled in its ability to offer cost savings and keep detailed information on all the costs associated with the movement of fresh produce,” he claims. “Although many software providers offer systems that monitor basic trading details, they do not understand the importance of having every piece of information to hand when preparing account sales and management accounts.”
Hardy says working closely with its client base has also helped Affinitus to grow, explaining that regular site visits to customers have often driven changes to software solutions.
“Clients work closely with us to let us know how their businesses are changing and what is important to them, and we visit clients regularly and often spot where people are working on things that could be done for them within our system and that leads development,” he says.
In addition, the company places a great deal of emphasis on its ongoing research and development programme, looking at the latest technology whenever it becomes available and identifying areas of its software solutions that can be improved on.
“We have undertaken a number of new developments over the last two years, which without doubt have changed the way our existing clients do business and make differences every day to our customers, improving profit, efficiencies and information available,” Hardy adds.
“Our customers are able to do more work with the same amount of staff, but with less duplication, fewer delays and fewer customer complaints due to more accurate picking.”
Ahead of Affinitus’ appearance as an exhibitor at the upcoming London Produce Show and Conference, Hardy says he is looking forward to “meeting anyone with an opinion”.
“Success for us could be anything from catching up with existing clients, solving a new client’s stock problem or finding something out that is important to the industry and leads us onto new development that we might not have otherwise known,” he says.
With all of the company’s previous clients having come through recommendations, Hardy says the London Produce Show will mark the first time that Affinitus has exhibited its software solutions publicly at an event.
“I’m sure as people see our software it will lead them to think what else may be possible and these could become our ideas and new products for the next 12 months,” he adds.
Affinitus showcased its software solutions at the London Produce Show and Conference 2015 at central London’s Grosvenor House hotel on 3-5 June.