By Stephanie Metzinger
Manager, Communication, Western Growers
When iTradeNetwork formed in 1999, its mission was simple: to help companies in fresh perishables leave pen-and-paper ordering processes behind and embrace digital procurement. What started as a modest idea has now morphed into a sophisticated system that can construct a complete end-to-end story of a commodity’s path down the supply chain and include important information in that journey, such as product quality at different points and real-time issue management.
Today, the agtech company maintains a network of 8,000 food and beverage companies—including many top global food manufacturers, major North American retailers and distributors, as well as perishables suppliers of all sizes and geographies. It continues to expand its platform to enable growers and shippers to manage costs and communicate key data to trade partners and end consumers while complying with growing food safety regulations.
“Growers need to focus on what they do best, so we offer a variety of modules and capabilities to take care of their supply chain operations,” said Rene Cardenas, vice president of marketing and strategic planning at iTradeNetwork. He notes how thousands of growers use the trading platform every day as a one-stop-shop to fulfill orders from their customers, maintain their product catalogs centrally, as well as fine-tune business processes like forecasting, demand planning, cross-docking, and vendor-managed inventory so growers can replenish buyers without waiting for them to issue a purchase order.
HOW IT WORKS
Once a company signs up and becomes part of the Network, they now have access to collaborate with any of the thousands of buyers or suppliers also on the Network. The iTradeNetwork platform is fully integrated, allowing all trading partners to access and manage every aspect of the procurement process within a single platform.
iTradeNetwork offers the following modules and capabilities:
• Traceability. iTracefresh offers a variety of item- and case-level labeling solutions that work on any mobile device, offline and online, all over the world.
• Fresh Inspection. iTradeFresh automates and guides inspection processes, standardizes processes across distribution centers and provides actionable insights. With this module, growers/shippers can grade their product with customers’ specs (which are pre-loaded into the module) and that quality information stays connected to the purchase order they are fulfilling.
• Order Management. iTrade’s Order Management System instantly connects users to all of their trading partners, allowing them to streamline procurement operations quickly and efficiently.
• Logistics. iTradeFreight allows users to see freight costs in real-time, test procurement decisions with scenario building and modeling and track shipments using real-time GPS tracking.
• Blockchain. By acting as the native platform for traceability, order management, quality inspection and analytics applications, iTrade Blockchain captures data directly at its source to ensure accuracy.
Additionally, the company launched iTradeMarketplace in April to assist growers in navigating uncertain times spurred by COVID-19. iTradeMarketplace is a new way for buyers, suppliers, logistics providers, packaging companies—any organization in the supply chain—to match supply with demand, discover new partners anonymously and establish trading relationships.
“With growers, particularly those servicing foodservice, being affected by COVID-related shutdowns, we built and launched iTradeMarketplace to give companies a forum to connect, bridge supply and demand gaps, and build supply chain resilience,” said Cardenas. “Since it launched, 700 users have joined, it’s gotten more than 60,000 page views, and there are hundreds of threads related to all sorts of commodities. This will be a continuing part of our platform even beyond COVID.”
ADVANCEMENTS THROUGH WG’S TECH CENTER
In addition to fulfilling its core mission to help companies in the perishables supply chain harness the power of collaboration and make conducting business with each other easier, iTradeNetwork has recently taken steps to expand its own network. In April 2017, the agtech company joined the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology in Salinas, CA to dialogue and collaborate with other tech firms who look to solve ag-related challenges.
“It’s great to be part of a group that’s passionate about both agriculture and technology, in the heart of one of the world’s most prolific growing regions,” said Cardenas.
The iTradeNetwork team has taken full advantage of the wealth of resources the Center has to offer and in the last few years, the company has been able to develop and launch many new applications and capabilities. This includes a re-platforming of its traceability suite; the creation of iTradeFresh, iTradeFreight and the iTradeMarketplace partner discovery portal; and the buildout of iTradeOrder, its new procurement application for independent and regional retailers/distributors. Since joining the WGCIT, iTradeNetwork has also surpassed 8,000 trading partners on the network and is closing in on the 10,000 mark.
“We recognize the agricultural industry faces increasing consumer, regulatory, and competitive pressures, and we’re really pleased and consider it a privilege to partner with Western Growers, who also recognizes that and supports technology as an innovative force to tackle these challenges,” Cardenas said. “Networks are important in general, in many walks of life. This is a great one to be a part of.”