Grower input sought to guide future traceabilityTechnology & Data
The advantages and possibilities of tracing apples and pears through all stages of production, processing and distribution are being explored by Agriculture Victoria, with a project report into available technologies, current uptake and industry‘s readiness to adopt them to be completed by June 2021.
Growers are invited to complete a short survey (link at bottom of article) and/or contact researchers to inform the Horticulture Innovation-funded project Technology Review of Fruit Traceability.
Agriculture Victoria researcher Steve Williams has already completed a desktop review of technologies and is looking to better understand how growers collect data, what systems they use and what barriers there are to sharing information along the supply chain.
He says the ability to track fruit through all stages is extremely important to all of industry.
“If we have traceability of fruit through all stages of production, processing and distribution, from the time it was harvested to when it gets to the consumer, there are fantastic opportunities for all supply chain participants,” Steve said. “Good fruit traceability is also critical to managing and building market access and confidence.
Steve said traceability can technically be a fairly simple process, but key to its success is the involvement of all parties along the supply chain and their willingness to tweak current approaches to enhance traceability outcomes. Traceability potential is improved when affordable and unique ‘identifiers’ for the fruit are shared along the supply chain.
“At the moment, different parties may just be focused on their job in the chain, rather than providing information for others,” he said. ”We also need to consider the cost of the technology employed in a traceability system – the unit cost of apples and pears is a lot lower than a cow, so the system overheads must be lower.”
Improvements in traceability can be specifically made in different parts of the supply chain and provide benefits even if the traceability resolution is not fully passed along the chain. Greater resolution of traceability in the production setting can enhance production reporting, precise traceback of harvest and biosecurity issues and provide better support to some operations such as picker tallies and payment. The research at Agriculture Victoria Research Tatura SmartFarm has shown potential for new technologies to allocate unique identifiers for ‘production units’ such as a tree, block, row, zone or orchard, and fruit containers such as a bag, bucket or bin.
“These technologies could additionally enable the grower to uniquely identify the fruit and which tree it came from, but this would not be practical to implement in current commercial orchards.
“Agriculture Victoria is designing and developing Application Programming Interface (API) services that enable the exchange of data with others in the supply chain about a feature, for example an apple or box of fruit. These services would enable information to be recorded whenever the label of a box of fruit is scanned. This means it could be traced all the way to the retail store and at any point when you scan it, and an associated service could tell you about its journey.”
The project will summarise the challenges, opportunities and risks for industry in adopting next generation traceability technologies, and investigate the capacity, capability and readiness of growers to adapt.
Steve suggested that, while it will depend on the suitability of available technologies and their costs, there is potential for some solution components to be more easily adopted if participants are convinced there is value to them.
“Traceability is also expected to reduce supply chain costs and boost market access through enhanced biosecurity and food safety processes, and it should facilitate countering food fraud through the ability to prove place of origin and provenance,” he said.
The report will build on existing projects within Agriculture Victoria including involvement in the National Traceability program, findings from the traceability and supply chain review project and the traceability Blockchain trial being conducted with the citrus industry.
How to provide input
- Take the short five-minute Agriculture Victoria Industry Survey on workflows, where and what data you collect, how you store and use it and any obstacles to traceability from your perspective, and/or
- Prefer to discuss: email Steve Williams on [email protected]