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Hawaii Uses New RFID System to Track and Trace Produce

January 30, 2014

4 Min Read
Hawaii Uses New RFID System to Track and Trace Produce

The State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the Hawaii Farm Bureau have partnered to deploy a three-year pilot RFID initiative. The Hawaii Produce Traceability initiative uses UPM Raflatac RFID inlays to track and trace fresh produce throughout the State’s food supply chain. The innovative initiative, the first of its kind in the US, is designed to promote food safety by providing product visibility down to the farm or even field level. The RFID system provides detailed, real-time information which can be used to optimize the supply chain, enable recalls in less than an hour and improve inventory control.

In the first phase Lowry Computer Products developed an RFID solution leveraging hardware from Motorola and Symbol Technologies, and Globe Ranger system software. The system pairs waterproof labels with UPM Raflatac ShortDipole UHF inlays with the Lowry Computer Products’ Fresh Harvest Solution to provide real-time supply chain data of when boxed produce is planted and harvested, what pesticides are used and when and where RFID-tagged boxes are scanned. The data is automatically uploaded into a database, where it can be used by program participants. It is also available for public review on the initiative web portal, www.hawaiifoodsafetycenter.org.

Growers were offered the opportunity to participate by either slap-and-ship tagging or usage of a hand-held RFID system. Boxed produce is read at the distribution center upon entry and exit of both the physical facility and cold storage. Tags are read again at the retailers' point of entry, removal from cold storage and at end of life. Both the distribution center and retailer use a fixed portal RFID reader.

Participants can use gathered data to optimize harvest productivity, strengthen food processing controls, increase cold chain visibility, reduce produce dwell time on shipping and receiving docks, accelerate transportation times between trading partners and improve inventory turns.

This enables them to optimize margins in the competitive food industry. In the event of a food recall growers can quickly identify if they are impacted, thus enhancing their brand and protecting revenues. Affected growers can localize the impact of relevant recalls to the field level, minimizing losses.

State officials are considering enhancements to the next two phases of the project, such as deploying RFID-enabled cellphones to enable more farms to participate, and implementing produce temperature tracking to reduce the threat of food spoilage. The initiative could be expanded to cover 5,000 State farms at full implementation.

“The Hawaii Produce Traceability initiative is an integral part of the State Food Safety Certification system,” says Dr. John Ryan, Administrator, Quality Assurance Division, State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

“This project provides the backbone for future and more preventive closed-loop sensor technologies which are capable of measuring and reporting biocontaminants and temperature variations via the RFID system as produce moves through the supply chain. The RFID system will provide managers with improved real-time control over potential food safety problems and help to prevent wide-spread human and economic impact."

UPM Raflatac tag performance is currently being tested on shipments between Armstrong Produce and the Kaneohe, Hawaii Marine Base commissary. This important addition to the pilot program is in compliance with the Department of Defense RFID directives. “The Hawaii Produce Traceability initiative is providing UPM Raflatac with the opportunity to showcase the versatility and durability of its ShortDipole tag, which provides exceptional yields and performance throughout its lifecycle,” says Jan Svoboda, Sales and Marketing Director, Americas, RFID, UPM Raflatac.

Many of Hawaii’s leading growers, distributors and retailers, including Sugarland Farms, Hamakua Heritage Farms, Kula Country Farms, Maui Pineapple, Twin Bridge Farms, Kahuku Brand, Armstrong Produce and Foodland Stores have chosen to participate in this voluntary program. The initiative tracked several types of fresh produce including e.g. asparagus, eggplants, pineapples and tomatoes.

Funding for the pilot program was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii, Federal State Marketing Improvement Program, and Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation. The pilot has been awarded with a Computerworld Laureate Gold Medal for using information technology to benefit society.

Source: UPM Raflatac

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