For Doug Grant, a lot has changed since he first came to the produce industry in 1995 as the director of information systems for Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver.

Grant, 56, originally expected to have the business all figured out within a couple of years, but he soon found things to be much more complex.

Doug Grant, The Oppenheimer Group“To the end consumer, it seems simple. The produce just shows up on the store shelf, but as you get into all the aspects of the supply chain, market environment and growing a perishable food, it can become amazingly complex,” he said. “Every day, there’s a new set of challenges that come across the board.”

Grant, who has been with Oppenheimer for nearly 18 years, has proven to be effective at meeting those challenges.

At Oppenheimer, he began by building a computer system and a team of developers and IT support staff that have gone on to become leaders and managers.

“It’s been a real thrill to me to see the people I hired and mentored grow and succeed in the company,” he said.

Grant also believes in making a difference outside of his own company.

He has served on and chaired numerous boards and committees, including Can-Trace and Produce Marketing Association E-Commerce Task Force. He serves as co-chairman of the Produce Traceability Initiative leadership council and executive committee.

Oppenheimer president John Anderson said he has noticed Grant’s passion for improving product traceability.

“He has tirelessly applied his talents to some of the most complex areas of our business, like technology and logistics, meanwhile helping shape the North American produce industry’s approach to such key issues as product coding, food safety and traceability, by chairing committees and authoring pivotal white papers,” he said.

Grant’s efforts were recognized in 2004 when he recieved the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s Man of the Year honor.

Grant said he is driven to meet the challenge of tracing products in an industry with such a complex supply chain. He also wants to help increase the confidence that consumers have in the system.

“If consumers have a lack of confidence with the industry’s ability to trace back and withdraw product if there’s a problem, we’re in big trouble,” he said.

He wants to help create industry traceability standards so that companies can share data.

“It would make it easier to do a whole-chain recall if the industry had a standard protocol in place that could trace across multiple companies that have handled product,” he said.

Grant said he is pleased with some of the advances that have been made so far, especially in the last couple of years, but there is still a ways to go.

Of course, he said it all goes back to helping growers be successful.

“My passion is to help our growers succeed. They put their heart and soul, and often everything they own into their farm, and then are completely at the mercy of weather, markets, and the economy. We need to do the best we can to manage their products through our supply chain,” he said.