Red Tractor is turning to live streamed audits as physical assessments were halted last month in accordance with Covid-19 advice on social distancing.
The food assurance scheme is rolling out the remote regime to enable new applicants to be assessed and current members to retain their assurance status.
An online portal will enable farms to upload their documents and records, and Red Tractor has run a series of pilots using different live-streaming technologies.
The next phase of the development will be the scaling-up of pilots to stress test the new protocol, in order to address any issues.
More than 150 farmers have expressed an interest in being a part of this next stage of the roll out.
Red Tractor CEO Jim Moseley said: “The public and our members expect us to maintain the integrity of the Red Tractor scheme, even during this challenging time.
“It was important that we developed a remote assessment option, which isn’t burdensome for our members but underpins our mantra - that adhering to the standards isn’t merely an option, it is a necessity - it’s every standard, every day.”
From this week, under the new remote assessment programme, farms due their assurance assessment, or new applicants, can either opt for an offline pre-assessment, followed by a live stream partial assessment using video calling or online meeting software such as WhatsApp, Blue Jeans, Zoom.
Members must send documentation to their assessor in advance, via Red Tractor’s portal or other secure file transfer site, to complete the offline pre-assessment.
A video call will follow at an appropriate time, allowing assessors to carry out the visual assessment of the member’s site without needing to attend in person.
Alternatively, members can opt to have the entire assessment, with all document reviews and inspections taking place, via a video call with an assessor.
Farmers who have successful remote assessments during this phase, will not be required to have an additional physical assessment outside of their normal audit cycle.
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 members will be contacted by their certification body in due course to discuss the options available to them.