Safe, sustainable, satisfying—what’s on your plate matters
Antonello Produce uses IBM Food Trust to simplify product traceability from seed to store shelf
little girl taking a bite into a large piece of watermelon
How safe is the food that you’re feeding to family? You believe it’s healthy and nutritious, but what if it was treated with a pesticide or cleaning agent that you’re allergic to? Or maybe it was contaminated with some unseen bacteria with potentially lethal results. How can you be confident about the safety and sustainability of your food?

“To our customers and suppliers, food traceability is becoming increasingly important,” explains Adrian Antonello, General Manager at Antonello Produce. “People want to know where their food comes from—particularly in Australia, since we’ve had a number of food safety concerns in the past five or 10 years, some of which caused significant harm.”

And noticing this trend, Antonello Produce wanted to provide its customers with smart, sustainable foods that they could trust. In particular, the business was planning to launch a new East Fresh brand that would bundle the delicious produce grown by its farming partners with blockchain-based traceability records, making it easier to verify the history and provenance of any specific fruit or vegetable.

Of course, pulling together and sharing this growing and transportation information wouldn’t be easy. “There are a handful of businesses doing something like this in Australia already,” notes Antonello. “But it’s much more archaic, more basic than what we were trying to do. We wanted to build something that didn’t rely on paper and that was a lot more transparent and accessible to the people that need to see it.”

This shift from paper-based processes to digital workflows would not only reduce business friction but also make the underlying product information more readily available to all Antonello Produce stakeholders—including producers, distributers, retailers and consumers. And if an issue were to occur, this new approach would further make it easy to identify, isolate and recall the relevant products.

“It’s not normal, everyday business,” clarifies Antonello. “The food we handle is incredibly safe, and spoiled product won’t ever make it to a retailer. But there might be an event once every 100 or 300 days related to some sort of outside contamination or other factor that might affect a person’s health.”

Beyond just safety, having access to this information would also help consumers and retailers make smarter, more environmentally sustainable decisions when it comes to food choice.

“We’ve seen an increasing amount of the population who want to know where their food comes from geographically,” adds Antonello. “More and more, I think people are concerned with food miles and the energy and environmental impact regarding what it takes to create what’s on their plate. Is it grown, packaged and delivered locally? Is it from 1,000 kilometers away? It’s already affecting consumer buying habits.”

20 tons


Tracks the location, provenance and history of roughly 20 tons of watermelon every seven days

> 300 product lines


Post launch, the solution can scale to support the > 300 product lines Antonello Produce markets throughout a given year

People want to know where their food comes from—particularly in Australia, since we’ve had a number of food safety concerns in the past five or 10 years. Adrian Antonello General Manager Antonello Produce
Growing season

To move forward with its East Fresh plans, Antonello Produce needed to put in place a centralized food traceability platform that could accurately track produce from field to store shelf. And aware of IBM’s efforts surrounding blockchain and traceability, the business chose to deploy the IBM Food Trust® solution.

Lacking the resources internally to deploy the technology, Antonello Produce turned to IBM Business Partner Archisage for assistance. “It was important for us to work with someone local,” explains Antonello. “We’re not that technically proficient here, so we needed someone to actually handle the implementation. Someone that could be onsite and accessible if we had questions or issues. And they’ve been very responsive and very good to work with.”

For the pilot phase of the project, Antonello Produce chose to focus solely on tracking watermelons. A new, three-month-long growing season was about to start, and while watermelons were a high-volume product for the business, in the summer most of this produce came from a single supplier—a family farm that Antonello Produce had a long history working with.

We go through a lot of watermelons,” adds Antonello. “We probably sell up to 200 tons each week. So that’s about 20,000 watermelons every seven days. And we figured that would be a good start for IBM Food Trust.”

Vivek Mittal, Principal Consultant and Director at Archisage, adds: “IBM Food Trust is the key part of the whole program. So as the distribution center receives shipments—with accompanying purchase orders, dispatch documents and any other related records—we transform all that paperwork into standardized data that Food Trust can understand.”

He continues: “Since they’re a smaller business, much of their processes had been paper-based. So we created an input document—based on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with custom-built macros—that lets them upload growth and shipment data. We also built a small application that looks for relevant documents in their electronic file system and automatically uploads them to the traceability platform.”

Pleased with the overall results of this initial phase, Antonello Produce chose to put the solution into full production.


IBM Food Trust is the key part of the whole program. So as the distribution center receives shipments … we transform all that paperwork into standardized data that Food Trust can understand. Vivek Mittal Principal Consultant and Director IBM Business Partner Archisage
Faster data yields safer produce

“As I mentioned before, food safety is a growing concern here in Australia,” notes Antonello. “A few years ago, there was an incident where a disgruntled worker at a strawberry packing facility placed very fine needles into random strawberries. And further back, a rock melon grower had an issue with the water they were using to wash their product, and they had a salmonella outbreak that led to a death.”

When responding to these possible contamination issues, speed is paramount. And retailers and customers need to be able to identify not only where the problematic produce came from but also the location of any other potentially contaminated product. With Food Trust now in place, Antonello Produce is in a better position to eventually make this data available to its customers when it has further built out its East Fresh brand website.

“All they need is a batch number or an invoice number, and we can give them a full history for that product,” explains Antonello. “Which specific farm block did a shipment come from? When were the seeds put in the ground? What was done to improve or treat that block—were there chemicals or fertilizer used? Knowing those answers helps to differentiate our brand while also building confidence in the integrity and safety of the food that’s being distributed, sold and consumed.”

Now in production, Antonello Produce has already expanded its use of the IBM Food Trust platform beyond watermelons to accommodate pumpkins and sweet potatoes—with an eye towards eventually incorporating all 300 of its product lines. And Archisage has updated the input process, shifting from Excel to Intuit QuickBooks to generate the relevant spreadsheets.

Further, Antonello Produce is also looking for ways to make its traceability data more readily available to consumers. “We’re discussing the potential of an in-store kiosk system,” adds Mittal. “So consumers could scan a QR code on the packaging, and they could see all of the data in Food Trust. They’d see the entire journey of their food.”

Providing access to this information would also help consumers make more sustainable choices in what they added to their shopping cart, allowing them to prioritize local growers or harm-reducing growing practices.

All they need is a batch number or an invoice number, and we can give them a full history for that product. Adrian Antonello General Manager Antonello Produce
A brand you can trust

Altogether, the new solution makes it much easier for Antonello Produce to trace and identify food shipments, no matter where they are in the distribution chain.

“The timing has been greatly reduced,” notes Antonello. “Before, if we had a product recall or general request, it might have taken us days to pull together all of the shipment information. They’d call us or we’d go back and forth via email just to sort out the request. And since everything was on paper, we’d have to go through all our filing cabinets to find the right records. Now, we just click a button, and in minutes we have all the relevant documentation in front of us.”

Beyond the time and labor savings, this improved traceability also helps to distinguish the new East Fresh brand, attracting interest from potential buyers. “It gives an extra value to what we do and grants us the opportunity to get a better margin for the products that we sell. The IBM name also gives the process a lot of validity—it’s a trusted brand. And it reinforces the trust element that we’re bringing to East Fresh.”

Antonello logo
About Antonello Produce

Birthed from the traditions of a three-generation farming family, Antonello Produce (link resides outside of is a family-owned and operated business that offers wholesale, marketing and distribution services for fresh produce to grocers, restaurants and consumers throughout southeastern Australia. The business was founded in 2005 and is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia.

Archisage logo
About Archisage

IBM Business Partner Archisage (link resides outside of provides custom IT solutions and related consulting services that are focused on driving new efficiencies. The business—particularly its two founders—boasts a long-standing history with IBM that stretches back decades to even before the company’s official founding in 2015. At present, Archisage is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia.

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