Farm food assurance audits to be done via video calls during lockdown
PUBLISHED: 16:55 17 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:55 17 April 2020
The Red Tractor farm assurance scheme is preparing to carry out audits via video calls so remote assessments can continue throughout the coronavirus lockdown.
All physical assessments were halted last month in accordance with government advice regarding social distancing and unnecessary travel.
But the UK’s largest food and farming assurance scheme has been working with certification bodies to find a way to allow audits to continue via video calls without the need for farm visits.
Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley said: “Members around the UK have shown great resilience and resourcefulness in recent weeks to keep the supply of great British food moving from farms to shops.
“However, the public and our members expect us to maintain the integrity of the Red Tractor scheme, even during this challenging time.
“As a world-leading assurance scheme, it was important that we developed a remote assessment option.”
The assurance scheme uses its own online portal to enable farms to upload their documents and has run a series of pilots using different live-streaming technologies to allow assessors to have “virtual eyes” on the farm.
The next phase will be to scale-up those pilots to “stress test” the new remote assessment programme.
Farms due their assurance assessment, or new applicants, can either opt for an offline pre-assessment of documents sent in advance, followed by a live stream partial assessment using video calling or online meeting software.
Alternatively, they can opt to have the entire assessment, including all document reviews and inspections, via a video call with an assessor.
Mr Moseley added: “While some farmers may be daunted at the prospect of a remote assessment, those that have trialled the approach see huge benefits and many believe this could herald another approach to auditing long after the impact of Covid-19.
“We understand that this new approach will take time to bed in, but we are committed to working with our members and certification bodies to make sure remote assessments are as straightforward as possible.”
Red Tractor said members will be contacted by their certification body in due course to discuss the options.
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