Anita Roberts is Agriculture Director for NSF, the largest provider of audits for assurance schemes such as BEIC British Lion, Red Tractor and the LEAF Marque.
We are all having to change the way we do business at the moment. As a leading certification body, we have a responsibility to find rapid solutions for the farmers, brands and businesses we audit while the country is in lockdown.
Having that regular audit provides the assurances our customers need, enabling farmers, major retailers and the other organisations we work with to continue ‘business as usual’ wherever possible.
Within 72 hours of the country going into lockdown, we were piloting live-streamed farm audits – the first certification body to get back up and running.
We knew from the outset that in changing the process we had two key challenges. First, to ensure a new format for audits isn’t burdensome for members. Second, a streamed audit has to be as realistic and robust as a physical inspection.
The most obvious change we have made is the use of technology. We’ve chosen a video conferencing app called BlueJeans which replaces the need for auditors to travel to farms, respecting the safety of both our employees and customers.
Aside from the fact it is a video link, the audits are not particularly different in the way they are completed.
Using a phone or tablet, the farmer is the eyes of the auditor taking direction on which areas of the site to go to and what to focus the camera on.
Such is the quality of most cameras, the detail moving around the farm is incredible – truly outstanding. And the same goes for viewing documents. Depending on what we are auditing there are two ways to do this; live streaming or using a portal to upload them. We are really keen for farmers to have confidence in remote assessments.
I recognise that technology is not something everyone is comfortable with, but we have tested our systems and trained our auditors and team members to help our farmers through the process.
If a problem occurs, you can bet that we have already prepared for it and have a solution.
We carry out 30,000 farm assessments so we understand what is required and will continue to work hard to find the solutions farmers need to stay assured throughout this crisis.