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The winner of Estonian Shark Tank will free hundres of food handling companies from cumbersome bureaucracy

When I meet Katrin Liivat, one of the founders of FoodDocs, she takes first an inch-thick pile of papers out of the bag and places it on the table. I can also feel the weight of this pile – it seems to be a proper piece of Master's thesis in volume and measure.

This is a typical so-called self-control basic package for the companies who one way or another sell foodstuff for people, and which comprises a detailed description of the food handling process from how the carrot or radish grows on the garden patch to how they are chopped and served in a dining place.

All the companies that trade with foodstuff must have such collection of documents. Whereby there is no substantial difference whether it is a kiosk selling factory-packed sandwiches or a top notch restaurant – in essence, the documentation is similar and obligatory for everyone and the Veterinary and Food Board (VFB) checks from time to time its presence and compliance with an actual situation.

One month's work was done in an hour

And naturally, the sold food must be safe and likewise it is self-evident that it should be possible to prove the safety explicitly and promptly. Must it be so cumbersome, time consuming and tedious?

”Compilation of the so-called basic package of the food safety and self-control documents may take two or three weeks for the person with professional knowledge, and a month or two for an ignorant person. Whereby a specialist will ask 500-1,000 euros for that work,' describes Katrin Liivat.

'Food must be safe, it is clear, and therefore the food safety and monitoring of the food supply chain is necessary. But there is a question of why this process has to be so bureaucratic.'

Katrin Liivat and her business partner Karin Repp had an idea in their mind to create a web-based program that could perfectly replace the current voluminous paperwork of the enterprises that deal with food sales or catering. So, a year and half ago the web application FoodDocs for managing the food safety was born and the first prototype was developed by IT faculty of the Tallinn University of Technology in cooperation with Mectory to whom EAS has given an innovation and development grant of 40,000 euros or support of the start-up company and that won the entrepreneurship competition Ajujaht this year, being awarded the grand prize of 30,000 euros and a special prize of 3,000 euros for the team with the most successful female leader.

In the words of Liivat, the idea is simple – by moving along the logical path and answering to standard questions and filling in the blanks, it actually takes an hour to arrange the weeks-long work and obtain a correct food safety plan that is also accepted by VFB and that is easy to change, supplement and manage otherwise in the future. For example, add laboratory analyses results, new raw material suppliers, new assortment, different menus, etc.

The larger the company, the faster the performance effect should appear, for example, in the case of a petrol station chain with dozens of sales points with concerned standard requirements, but at the same time each of them having their specific character and the so-called specific marginal notes for the documents. When it comes to a company starting from scratch, the same app allows to add activity license application or economic activity notification to the food safety package and send it directly to VFB.

The doers hope for international success

The described part is free of charge for the users. At this point, of course, the question arises on what then the creators of the FoodDocs have built their business plan if the service that costs at least half a thousand euros in so-called market prices, is served to the customers free of charge?

'It’s true that we do not take money for the food safety monitoring basic package. But it will become a paid service when a company starts to administer it during their further activities, make supplements and additions, or use an application that is related to the basic package,' explains Liivat. 'Currently our goal is to have as many customers as possible who are interested in this and try the beginning. And besides we also develop the paid services of the FoodDocs.''

According to Liivat, it is also possible to incorporate in the system the personnel management, as well as the electronic delivery notes, production documents, automatic notification of the amendments of legislation and the obligations that become actual, and a constant overview of food handling places.

Currently, there are more than three hundred users of FoodDocs, but three or four four newcomers are added daily, as Katrin Liivat confirms by relabelling that the subscribers are from among the catering companies, wholesale and retail companies, as well as food producers. She believes that the big business success of FoodDocs lies in the large-scale international projects.

Article published in Maaleht

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