Mercian Ltd is the largest single supplier of crisping potatoes to the UK industry and supplies all major crisp manufacturers from geographical areas across the country.
Mercian was formed in 2005 when a dedicated group of growers from Cheshire, joined together to supply the PepsiCo factory at Skelmersdale in Lancashire. PepsiCo have 14 sites across the UK and Ireland and operate in more than 200 countries, their brand range includes Quakers, Walkers, Pepsi and Tropicana.
In order to develop the business, Mercian Ltd required a team of industry experienced personnel to work in close partnership with both the growers and the customers.
Mercian are responsible for various independent farmers and their produce, across the country. With so many sites with different produce, Mercian found it difficult to keep track and control over the farmers’ operations.
Together Mercian and Fifteen Digital identified the key performance indicators which included being able to trace each potato for food safety. Ensuring that the produce was safe and that Food Safety Policies and Protocols were met is a main issue for Mercian as this is a requirement from their customers, who are crisp manufacturers.
Being able to record this information could also allow Mercian the ability to predict yields, this could then be used to predict market prices which can be passed on to farmers.
Finding a way to streamline their current systems meant that Mercian can reduce the issues and risks that could occur with their supplies and also focus on profitability.
What we did
The Developers team at Fifteen Digital supported the project and set to design, produce and complete an end to end track and trace solution for Mercian.
The Livetrace system was then created, the system is Cloud based and allows farmers to be able to upload their information about their crops’ management and business operations via mobile, tablet and desktop applications and create records for the crops. These records would be automatically converted into documents and are also stored in the Cloud, allowing easy access for Mercian.
Farmers can submit photos which demonstrate the various stages of potato growth (including detecting blight early, which is particular issue in potato farming), they can also use the app to include daily health and safety documentation, potato storage, transport details, invoices and much more.
The system also records when and how staff were trained and how and when the machinery used was last serviced and who serviced it.
Livetrace also uses the inputted data to predict live yield forecasts to Mercian and can be used to send invoices automatically.
The information is presented in ‘at a glance’ summaries and dashboards with ‘deep dives’ into specific documents, to make it simple to select records and evidence for auditing.
To ensure the eventual roll out of the system ran smoothly, Fifteen Digital created the simplest of apps to guarantee an efficient process. The platform was incentivised to farmers by offering faster payments to those who fully embraced the system.
The team at Fifteen Digital met with every one of Mercian’s farmers during the project roll out and also offer ongoing support to the farmers who are using the Livetrace system.
This system allows Mercian to present their customers (crisp manufacturers like Walkers) the full provenance of the produce, including the exact location where each potato was grown (with photographic proof), as well as the way it was grown, treated and managed, ensuring it is of the safest quality.
Farmers now run their entire businesses on the platform and like Mercian, they have streamlined their operations with automated invoicing and documentation, the system also triggers, checks and balances to ensure farm procedures deliver safe and high quality crops. Automatically sending invoices has almost eliminated administration with automated and connected business functions. It’s clear that staff and suppliers are engaged with the system and frequently request, test and use new features constantly.
By predicting live yield forecasts to Mercian, no party can manipulate the price of potato supply and this also protects food prices for the UK population.
The system has created partnerships across the potato supply chain with everybody operating on the platform, from farmers to logistics companies, making the supply chain more open, collaborative and productive.
By simplifying this data, Mercian are supporting to move the UK’s agriculture forward, influential government bodies including the World Health Organisation, the Technology Strategy Board and agriculture research institutes are all calling for better data in UK agriculture. Mercian now have the tool to answer the UK’s poor food supply infrastructure.
Since using Livetrace, Mercian is now 769% more efficient than its competitors based on staffing requirements alone. Mercian has a team of 7 colleagues whilst its close competitor, Cockerels has 97 staff.
Mercian have a big competitive advantage as the system allows them to have complete traceability over their supply chain as well as recording information about the staff who were involved and the machinery which was used. Other potato suppliers cannot offer this level of food quality assurance, which manufacturers, retailers and auditors demand.
The system also supports Mercian to ensure their high quality product is consistent, the platform has been pitched to farmers as a ‘growth springboard’, as farmers see Mercian as a way to grow their own businesses, they have become the merchant that people want to use to supply and receive the best potatoes possible from their suppliers.
Speaking about Livetrace, Jonathan Kemp of Mercian said;
“The system has revolutionised Mercian, elevating our whole supply chain and moving the business forward.
“The apps have streamlined our processes and procedures, simplifying the workload and most importantly, encouraging a co-operative partnership between growers, hauliers and customers.
“Fifteen Digital have supported us with creating and producing a solution that allows us to predict essential future figures and data and ensures that we meet vital food safety standards, this has rewarded Mercian with proven rapid business growth.”