Interview: Armando Flores Arias, Director of Azzule Systems of Mexico.

Armando Flores Arias, has an Information Systems Engineer degree graduated from the Technological Institute and Higher Education of Monterrey, he also has a specialty in Electronic Business from the Polytechnic School of Engineers of France.

Armando is currently Director of Azzule Systems of Mexico.

1. Could you share some of your professional experience?

I have an Information Systems Engineer degree from the Technological Institute and Higher Education of Monterrey and have a specialty in Electronic Business from the Polytechnic School of Engineers of France.

My professional experience has taken me for several industries, such as the steel and the telecommunications industry; however, my last challenges has taken me to the food industry, to restaurants and agro-supplies companies passing for very interesting positions from the management of projects to the current Direction of Azzule Systems of Mexico, a company focused on Food Safety Certification Squemes and software solutions tools for food management in the food supply chain.

2. What do you consider are the main challenges that the fresh produce industry is facing?

Definitely, the main challenge is the traceability of the products in the big food safety supply inside the international food trade. In general, the produce industry has make a lot of positive changes in countries like Mexico, Chile, Spain, etc. being technified at very important efficiency levels, but the products traceability goes beyond of the produce company or the distributor, this is why is still a challenge. Furthermore when this traceability is involved with a compliance issue or of a requirement of an important buyer or government institutions.

3. How do you consider that the new international regulations such as FSMA and the new requirements of buyers and consumers affect grower companies?

In the world are diverse production regions and diverse consume regions, an example is how Latin America is a produce region and North America is big consumption market, or how Spain is a produce region and the United Kingdom and Germany are consumption markets, although countries like China in a future may change or be of both types of regions.

In general, consumption markets, search in a natural way increase their safety, certainty and quality of their import products, better than domestic ones. In the same way, the United States of America, through the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and trough the foreign suppliers verification program (FSVP), are making just this, searching the way to increase their food safety and certainty, and this actions are making an effect in the big buyers supply chain and the companies dedicated to imports and exports.

It is possible that many foreign produce regions to big consumption markets have similar effects, because many countries are “harmonizing” their regulations to obtain similar results. In addition, comply with this changes becomes imperative for international food trade.

4. What is the importance that food safety certifications have to produce companies?

While Food Laboratories, for example, food safety laboratories are tools that help to prove with science the results, certifications are a tool, and now they are a requirement, that helps to promote the consistency of these results through time.

For example, a batch of food tested in a laboratory to verify their safety and to obtain positive results, but if that same company or operation normally has failures in its audits in reagents related to the sanitization of surfaces (only as an illustrative example), there is probability that their good laboratory results will not be consistent over time. The audit, well conducted, helps to mature the processes, good practices and controls, so that the results (ideally good results) are consistent over time.

This is why certifications well taken with other preventive controls can become a very useful tool.

5. What main services offered Azzule Systems?

Azzule brings to the market Food Safety Certification Squemes owned by Azzule and PrimusLabs, such as the Primus Standard or the PrimusGFS Squeme, this last one accredited by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), which gives a very important international recognition.

Also recently, PrimusGFS, released its 3 version, in which integrates more areas and strongly considers the principal aspects of new international regulations, as FSMA. We are constantly giving training and actualization services to the different certification organism so they can offer these certifications.

We also offer software tools to support food management, mainly of food safety, such as the Azzule Supply Chain Program, which, increasingly modern and visual, supports the management of compliance with requirements at the food supply chain, and as it is the website tool for Buyers, referring to large buyers such as supermarket chains, restaurants, etc.

These last two tools has been continuously improving, hand in hand with large buyers, to an increasingly technified management and verification food safety requirements.

The buyer can verify in their “Buyers” sections, design especially for them, the food safety activities that their suppliers send them by the Azzule Supply Chain Program, being able to corroborate which of their suppliers has an acceptable result and who does not.

6. In what new projects are currently working on?

2018 has been a very interesting year for Azzule, since we have integrated a couple of new large buyers in record time, we have launched to the market PrimusGFS v3, a new auditing system for the different audit houses that want to audit in other schemes, even when these schemes are not propriety of Azzule, and an innovative and practical concept called “Compliance Grids” that is available in our Azzule Supply Chain Program tools and websites for Buyers.

This last one takes the management of compliance to a much more visual and practical level, being able to see if your suppliers are in an acceptable status (“green”) or not, and likewise, in what status are you regarding the requirements of your customers

7. How you integrate to your services the new technologies as analytics and block chain and what benefit do you consider has to Produce Companies?

In fact, we have been working for 15 years under the premise that the analysis of the data helps the management of food safety, as well as the general management of food in the supply chain.

Our chief data scientist, Jon Takahashi, performs analyzes of the industry and of a single company against the industry in general.

Recently we also developed a very interesting analysis about the case of outbreaks of diseases by romaine lettuce from the “Imperial Valley” in Arizona, US, for a major food buyer, based on different sets of data, which included georeferenced results data of laboratory, and of different audits made in the area. We constantly seek to integrate analyzes that we see relevant in our software tools so that these analyzes are available to our customers.

Also, we are currently working on the integration with block chain technologies for another large buyer or major players in the industry, with which we hope to soon be adding to our portfolio of services the integration of the information of our customers who request it to the different block chain platforms of large buyers, as large buyers make the collaboration under these platforms mandatory and as our customers seek to meet these requirements.

8. What are the most important changes that the PrimusGFS Scheme 3 has had?

In July of this year, Rebeca Pérez, director of the PrimusGFS scheme, welcomed the news that GFSI continued to recognize our PrimusGFS scheme, thus having international validity.

PrimusGFS v3 has increased food safety standards widely supported by large food buyers and by government regulations on food safety issues.

First, it has simultaneously incorporated all FSMA requirements, including those in the Product Safety Rule, Preventive Controls for Human Foods and the Sanitary Transportation Rule, as well as other regulatory requirements, such as the Canadian Safe Food Regulations, along with the standards of Version 7.1 of the GFSI guidance documents for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

To comply with these varied standards, Version 3.0 has been extended from three modules to seven, with the use of modules adapted to meet the specific needs of the auditees. The modules are the following:

Module 1: Administrative Food Safety System

Module 2: Farm

Module 3: Greenhouse

Module 4: Harvest crew

Module 5: Installation

Module 6: HACCP (mandatory for facilities)

Module 7: Preventive controls (optional for installations).

The Sustainability and Social Welfare annexes are also available as add-ons for Version 3.0.

9. Something else you like to add.

I think it has covered a lot, and we are happy to collaborate with Eleven Rivers and the companies in the region and we hope to continue working together.