Although it was more than 10 years ago, Richmondite Steven Burton still remembers the first time he walked into a food processor's office, which was stuffed to the ceiling with papers.
"I was like, ‘What is all this paper for? This is crazy.’ They told me that that was their food safety program," recalled Burton, who was working with various manufacturers at the time.
"Food companies have to be very diligent about keeping track of all the ingredients they use, which ingredients were used in which products, and which customers received which products," said Burton.
"So, if they get some indication that there's been a recall, even for one of their suppliers, they need to be able to trace that all the way to the customer they sold the product to,” he explained.
And then there are the records required to ensure products are safe, which involves biological, chemical and physical records. And if all these records are on paper, the food producer “ends up being buried in paper," Burton added.
Excavating the food industry from those mountains of paper was the impetus behind Icicle Technologies Inc.
The Richmond company set out to offer food processors digital solutions that would enable them to go paperless and stay audit-ready, said Burton, who is the founder and CEO of Icicle.
Now Icicle, which oversees 500 facilities across the globe, just kicked off the New Year by winning a Top Software and Technology Award from Food Logistics, the only publication dedicated to covering the food and beverage supply chain.
Icicle was recognized for how it has automated various aspects of the food processing industry.
"Now, the real value of Icicle comes from helping companies maximize their profits by keeping a close track on all of their production activities and logistics activities, and providing tools to help these companies improve their efficiency," said Burton.
As a perfect combination of urban and rural environments, Burton added that the company is well situated in Richmond.
"We have a lot of opportunities for international engagement. We're also sitting on the edge of the Agricultural Land Reserve. So we have a lot of relationships with the farming community and food production in general," said Burton.