The software company is serving local food manufacturers like Big Mountain Foods and TMRW Foods
Steven Burton felt like he was dying.
The Vancouverite had several bouts with food poisoning throughout his life, but that first one in 1980 Egypt had him lose 30 pounds to the bug. Later on, when he had children who also became immunocompromised with digestive issues he thought, “there’s got to be a technological solution for this.”
To help address foodborne illnesses, Burton launched Richmond-based independent software vendor Icicle Technologies in 2015. The company’s ERP software was originally built on the foundation of food safety, but then dispersed to serve various branches of food manufacturing and processing.
“It's actually used by almost everybody in the facility,” says founder and CEO Burton. Icicle cooks it up with quality assurance, production planning, procurement, recipe management, occupational health and safety, logistics, sales and more.
“We have probably the most advanced system in the world for helping users identify biological, chemical, physical, radiological hazards, with a database of about 1.4 million products,” adds Burton. So if you’re not aware of the risks associated with, say, powdered organic guava, you could type that in and Icicle will analyze the best practices for you to consider. It automates temperature checks and can even tell you which lot code of cream to put in your recipe to make sure the oldest item in inventory gets used first. Icicle Technologies. CEO and founder Steven Burton
As Burton puts it, the company's systems ultimately help food manufacturers manage rising costs and thin margins. He remembers when a client (who was a federally regulated meat manufacturer in Vancouver) received a complaint about a customer choking on some metal in their product: “When they got the notification from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency—[which is where Icicle draws some of its prerequisite program data from]—the CEO of the company was in a cab on the way to the airport. And they actually managed the entire recall from the back of the car using Icicle on their mobile phone.”
As a serial entrepreneur, Burton first started implementing software into his construction business back in the 90’s. After becoming “really enamoured with the software industry,” he went back to school, graduating with a B.Tech in computer systems technology from BCIT in 2000. Later, while working on a project-to-project basis as the CTO and VP of engineering for a few companies, he came across a room full of stacked papers in Alberta.
“It looked like something from the Middle Ages,” Burton says with a laugh. “And they said that this was their food safety program. And that caused the spark.”
Icicle was recognized as a top software and technology provider by Food Logistics last week, just months after being named the ERP software of the year at the global AgTech Breakthrough Awards. With gross sales growing at 25 percent per year, according to Burton, the company is on local food manufacturers’ radar, including Big Mountain Foods and TMRW Foods.
And to think that none of this would've happened if it wasn't for a bad meal.