NSF Verify system enhances value of NI agri products

Responding to the challenges affecting local access to global agri food markets after Brexit, a new consortium has emerged to bring cutting-edge technologies together with an international standards organisation and leading Northern Ireland farmers to protect the value of local product on the world stage.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 8:51 am
Jessica Tomley, NSF International’s Agriculture Manager for Innovation & farmer Conor Colgan, who is taking part in the Verify trial.
Jessica Tomley, NSF International’s Agriculture Manager for Innovation & farmer Conor Colgan, who is taking part in the Verify trial.

NSF International, a global health and safety organisation and certification body for food industries, has worked with a range of key stakeholders to build a new platform named NSF Verify to ensure the authenticity and integrity of agri food supply chains. It is anticipated that the initiative will create 20 jobs for qualified agricultural technologists in the initial stages.

In collaboration with the Institute for Fujitsu UK, Institute of Global Food Security at Queen’s University, the b4b telecoms group and Samsung Electronics Ireland, NSF has developed the NSF Verify platform incorporating DNA sampling at birth and farm geo-fencing to the traditional data. This is then connected to the smart transport via the platform to provide a continuous record that accompanies an animal from birth through every stage.

Recognising that their geography means they can never compete on volume, Northern Ireland farmers and processors have built their industry by establishing a remarkable reputation for the highest quality agricultural product. The NSF Verify platform has been designed to help lock-in that value, but, in parallel, provide many of the answers to questions arising from the post-Brexit borders and relationships.

Sign up to our daily Farming Life Today newsletter

Earlier this summer, NSF initiated a successful three-month Phase 1 pilot on both large and small farms, to evaluate the user experience on farm. Former Ulster and Ireland rugby captain, Rory Best, agreed to bring the trial onto the pedigree Aberdeen Angus farm managed by Rory and his father, continuing on the grazing field the data-driven attention to detail that he brought to the sports field.

Speaking about the NSF Verify, NSF Verify Director, Stephen Cox, explained its significance: “The NSF Verify platform offers a highly innovative and effective solution for the Northern Ireland agri food sector that will simultaneously ensure the authenticity of the product, locking in its value on the global market, whilst also reducing the administrative burden throughout the entire supply chain. Northern Ireland has very forward-looking farmers who are prioritising traceability, transparency and accountability; this platform responds to the challenges they have set to turn that integrity into market value.

“We are concluding the first phase of our on-farm user evaluation and intend to move into a second stage commercial roll-out on 200 Northern Ireland farms. We see this as an opportunity for partnership with Government and we are encouraged by discussions which already have taken place with Ministers at Stormont.

“We are delighted by the support the agri and food processing community here in Northern Ireland have shown, typified by the number of leading local firms across the transport and processing sectors who have engaged. In phase 2 of the development, we will connect the digital identification of the animals from the ‘smart farms’ to ‘smart transport’ and ‘smart food processor’ companies to extend the chain of authentication as well as harnessing efficiencies at each stage. By linking with transport vehicles that are equipped with ‘smart technology,’ every mile of every journey undertaken by livestock will form part of information on the NSF Verify platform. The implications and opportunities for export trade in a post-Brexit context are clear.”

Commenting on the wider opportunities presented by the programme, Mr Cox said: “Beyond the benefits to every aspect of the supply chain, including on-farm cost and labour efficiencies, and assisting with frictionless trade, this programme also has the potential to create highly skilled jobs in the region. NSF Verify will complement Northern Ireland’s global reputation in the cyber arena and will provide a baseline for the future of digital identification and product provenance across global supply chains and into export markets, well beyond the agri food sector.”