Organic Certification Streamlined and Simplified with iCertify

in 2021/Current Issue/Organic Community/Organic Standards/Standards Updates/Winter 2021

Corinne Impey

The start of 2021 marks year two of using iCertify, COABC’s online organic certification system. Last year, over 150 members used iCertify to apply for, or renew, their organic certification.

This year will see more members and more certification bo dies using the system for the first time, while many operators will be returning and benefiting from a simplified renewal process. Behind the scenes, the team has been busy updating the questions to reflect the new organic standards, and developing some new features. The most anticipated update? A database of approved products. Here’s everything you need to know.

iCertify Launches Database of Approved Products

New this year, iCertify will include a database of products that have been pre-approved for use in organic production. This new feature includes a simplified way to request approval for products and the ability to search a database of products already approved by your certification body.

With this new feature you:

  • Don’t have to wait for product approval if it has already been verified by your certification body.
  • Can see expiration dates and supporting documents for approved items.
  • Can search for suppliers of a particular type of product.
  • Can easily share your approved inputs list with verification officers during your inspection.

“As both a farmer and a Certification Committee member, I’m very excited for the upcoming database of approved products,” says Jay Williamson of Tendergreens Farm in the Comox Valley, and Certification Committee Chair.

“The ability to search for items in a database of pre-approved products will make it faster and easier for growers to select and source soil amendments and other inputs without having to figure out if products are acceptable for organic use or wait for Certification Committee approval,” says Jay. “It will also greatly reduce the number of product approvals needing to be reviewed by the Certification Committee, and will eliminate a lot of the repetition in the product approval process.”

Jay showing off the radish harvest. Credit: Tendergreens Farm

Product Search

From fertilizers to cleaners to pest management products and more, if there is an existing record for the product you want to use, it will appear in the database’s search results. Simply add it to your “My Products” list to see if it has been approved for use by your certification body. Your personalized list will include not only an expiry date, but the ability to renew the approval with the click of a button. During inspection, you can simply log in to your iCertify account and show your inspector your list of approved products and compliance documents, all in one place.

“Over time, as we approve more products and the database grows, it will become an incredibly useful tool not just for existing members, but also for new farmers working towards organic certification,” says Jay.

Requesting New Approvals

You can also use this feature to request new input approvals. Simply follow the steps to upload relevant supporting documents (such as product ingredients list, third party verification, labels, etc.) and request a review directly from within the iCertify system.

Be sure to check with your certification body regarding any fees for these requests, then submit and wait for a decision. You can check on the status of your request at any time, by logging in and reviewing your “My Products” tab.

If the product is approved, it will automatically be added to your “My Products” list complete with any specific instructions or restriction information. Denied products will also be listed with an explanation for denial.

While COABC certification bodies will work together to share product records and compliance documentation, each certification body will approve products for its own members.

Verification officer Megan Halstead. Credit: Megan Halstead.

“Input review questions are one of the most common questions I get asked as a verification officer,” says Megan Halstead. “What a wonderful resource this will be for operators! I feel certain that it will save time and frustration for operators, and hopefully also help make sense of the standards. Since the approved lists will be easy to generate, I think the verification process will be easier during inspections, too.”

This database of approved inputs is managed under the COABC umbrella of certification bodies. It is for and accessible by COABC members only.

Please contact your local certification body directly to confirm if they are using iCertify or the database of approved products this year.

Jay with fresh potatoes. Credit: Tendergreens Farm

Funding for this project has been provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The program is delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.

Featured image: Farmer Jay Williams beaming with excitement at Tendergreens Farm. Credit: Tendergreens Farm.

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