Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ Category

Hawaiian produce trial will track pallets of produce from Taiwan starting next month

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

In case you missed last week’s issue, we’ve posted our lead story here:

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is a leader when it comes to piloting RFID for food safety. In May, the department began shipping 70 RFID-enabled pallets of produce between distribution centers on the islands of Maui, Hawaii and Oahu to monitor shipping temperatures and to learn how variances in temperature impact produce.

The Hawaii Produce Traceability Initiative is ready to take its next step, which will occur in late September when a pallet of produce is shipped from Taiwan carrying RFID and GPS technology. The pallet will be tracked from the pallet build level in Taiwan, although the program’s partners in Taiwan want to extend the project and tag produce immediately after it is harvested in the field.

“This is an opportunity to establish a working relationship on food safety with other countries and cooperatively develop the technology,” says John Ryan, the retired head of Hawaii’s quality assurance office, and now a principal with Ryan Systems. “We think that in the not too distant future, something like this could become a standard.”

Taiwan-based Asia Pallet Pooling is providing the plastic pallets for the pilot project, as well as much of the funding. Intelleflex has been selected to supply the battery assisted passive RFID tags for the project. The DCs are operated by Armstrong Produce. Ryan says that he is also working with the Riverside County (Calif.) Economic Development Association with the hope of tagging pallets of perishables flowers or dairy items destined for Taiwan later this year.

“We want to help the exporters out as well,” says Ryan. “The idea is to not only determine why spoilage is happening, but to work together to and try and prevent produce losses from occurring altogether. The food supply chain has a ways to go when it comes to how to manage product better.”

Intelleflex says that one-third of all fresh produce spoils before reaching the retail market, resulting in $35 billion of losses annually. On that note, Intelleflex is seeing a rapid demand in pilots for fresh produce tracking, as well as for temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals. Kevin Payne, the company’s senior director of marketing, expects to see deployments ramp up as early as this fall.

“We’re seeing more pilots, especially in the grower and shipper area, and we’re seeing a lot of interest in the earlier edge of cold chain at the production level because the real cost burden is on the growers and the packers,” says Payne.

Retailers are typically less motivated to install technology to monitor temperature control and spoilage because they usually push costs on to the consumer, or back up the cold chain. “They are less motivated financially,” says Payne. “It’s the growers and packers who are paying for the one-third of produce that spoils in transit, so we’re seeing an uptick in the number of growers and shippers interested in the technology.”

Intelleflex tags and readers provide on-demand, data visibility solutions for cold chain and asset management applications. Its battery-assisted passive RFID technology enables condition monitoring of individual products on loaded pallets or totes from a range of up to 300 feet and can penetrate packaging. That means that users can make informed decisions on product shipment, inventory and product rotation that can reduce shrink in perishable foods and guarantee efficacy of pharmaceuticals.

Intelleflex hopes to announce the results of a study soon that shows the effects of temperature swings on shelf life. “Our tests have generated some real interesting data for fresh produce, as far as monitoring temperature of products and the impact on shelf life from both the field to the pack house as well as the pack house to the DC,” says Payne. “The data has been extremely compelling in that we are finding significant amounts of variation between each hand off point in the cold chain.”

“We’re hoping to see a significant number of customers adopting this technology starting this fall based on the level of pilot activity and the inquiries we’ve had,” says Payne.

Of course, the ROI of less than four months achieved during one pilot, or one growing season, is opening a lot of eyes when it comes to deploying the technology through the produce cold chain.

The technology has also caught the eyes of the insurance industry. This week Intelleflex announced a unique partnership with The Hartford Financial Services Group, in which both companies will explore insurance-related opportunities to reduce the amount of produce lost and improve the overall quality of produce during the distribution process from the grower to the retailer. The partnership, which is through The Hartford’s corporate venture division Hartford Ventures, may also enable The Hartford to enhance its loss control and underwriting practices based on results from RFID tagging.

In many cases, the billions in losses each year from spoiled produce are covered by insurance companies like The Hartford. In this case, RFID could help to not only limit those financial payouts, but also cut down on the huge amount of paperwork and investigative research that goes into each claim.

“Identifying cold chain issues quickly and routing perishables based on remaining shelf life are critical to enhancing customer profitability and operational effectiveness,” says Alexander McGinley, marine underwriting officer at The Hartford. “This new technology will help our customers decrease the amount of produce wasted due to temperature variations.”


The Hartford teams with Intelleflex to reduce insurance claims from spoiled produce

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

The insurance industry is warming up to RFID technology. Insurers represent a strong market for applications like asset tracking for IT items and document management. But this morning’s announcement from the Hartford Financial Services Group takes the potential benefits of RFID to a higher level.

By teaming up with cold chain solution provider Intelleflex, the insurer hopes to potentially save billions in claims, while also reducing the staggering amounts of paperwork, documentation, and investigatory research that accompany each claim.

You see, one-third of all fresh produce shipped goes bad before reaching the retailer, representing $35 billion worth of losses each year. Some of those losses are actually covered by insurance claims. The Hartford hopes to use Intelleflex’s XC3 Technology™ RFID readers and tags to provide shippers, distributors and retailers with the ability to route product to maximize quality, salability and reduce unnecessary perishable waste. Placed in pallets of produce at harvest, RFID tags continuously monitor the temperature and condition of produce as it travels through the distribution process, calculating the remaining shelf life.

“Identifying cold chain issues quickly and routing perishables based on remaining shelf life is critical to enhancing customer profitability and operational effectiveness,” said Alexander McGinley, marine underwriting officer at The Hartford. “This new technology will help our customers decrease the amount of produce wasted due to temperature variations.”

While the Hartford is focusing on the produce market, think about the possibilities of using RFID when it comes to the claims litigation process. A bank or financial institution that reports theft of a group of laptops, for example, might be able to isolate the last place the equipment was if it was tagged with RFID for asset tracking. The same theory holds true for retailers, who fight a constant battle with shrink during the supply chain process. Item level tagging, which allows complete visibility of an item as it moves through the supply chain, can help to isolate where a product left its intended route, and help to catch the parties involved, and therefore limit the exposure to insurance companies.

“The Hartford is strongly committed to open innovation in helping us get to the future faster,” said Jacqueline LeSage Krause, vice president of innovation and corporate venture capital at The Hartford. “Hartford Ventures allows us to identify and collaborate with leading private companies to develop solutions that address the unique needs of our insurance and wealth management customers.”

RFID has bee researchers abuzz

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

RFID technology has allowed researchers a rare glimpse into the flight patterns and homing abilities of honey bees. A report in the scientific PloS ONE Journal says that bees frequently fly several kilometers to and from vital resources, and utilize a form of symbolic dance language to communicate those locations to fellow bees.

Each bee was tagged on the thorax. Each tag carried a unique 64 bit number which allowed researchers to track flight patterns of individual bees. Two readers attached to the beehive tunnel recorded the bee’s exits and arrivals.

Here’s how researches utilized RFID, according to the publication:

Pollen-carrying bees were captured upon return from a foraging trip at the hive entrance and briefly immobilized on ice, so that a RFID tag with known ID number could be glued to each bee’s thorax with shellac glue from a queen marking kit.

Groups of 20 tagged bees were then kept in cages with ad libitum access to 50 percent sucrose solution. The cages were transported to the respective release sites in dark styrofoam containers so that the bees did not derive any directional information before the experiments began. The preparations were conducted in the morning, so that the experimental bees could be released in the early afternoon. At the respective release sites, the cages were opened at one side, and the bees were given five minutes to take off. The bees then spiraled upwards in wide circles until they were lost from view; homing trajectories could therefore not be determined. Animals which had not left the cage after five minutes were excluded from the experiment.

Approximately two hours passed between the bees’ capture and release. Upon return to the hive, the bees’ identity and homing time were recorded by the RFID receivers at the hive entrance.

Click here to read the full research paper:



Omnitrol solution delivers food traceability for Firstlight Foods

Friday, April 29th, 2011

New Zealand-based Firstlight Foods knows that its customers want to know where and how their beef was produced, and how fresh it is when it arrives at the marketplace.

Through a partnership with Omnitrol and RFID systems integrator Trident RFID, Firstlight now has those checks and balances in place. Firstlight, which processes and sells high quality beef products to retailers like Whole Foods in the U.S., will rely on an Omnitrol solution that enables real-time manufacturing visibility and item-level tracking in food, meat and beverage traceability across global supply chains.

The solution will enable Firstlight Foods to automatically track venison and beef production and to accurately generate electronic meat pedigree records enabling field-to-fork traceability.

“We have successfully worked with Omnitrol in the past in delivering food traceability, so when Firstlight Foods called on us for meat traceability, we knew Omnitrol would have an answer,” says D’Arcy Quinn, Chairman of Trident RFID. “The Omnitrol platform is the industry’s most versatile solution and the easiest to deploy and scale with RFID readers at the Firstlight site. With reliable real-time tracking data, Firstlight will be able to improve their processes, reduce product damage, and automatically generate electronic records for pedigree compliancy in their meat production plants.”


Grocers target RFID to help eliminate spoilage in perishable food chain

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

As fuel costs continue to rise, transporting perishable food items becomes more expensive. And as water supplies continue to diminish, growing crops becomes more challenging. Those are two reasons why it’s so important to address the food spoilage problems that plague the perishable foods cold supply chain, and one reason why President Obama recently signed the Food Safety Modernization Act.

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), over half of the food produced globally is lost, wasted or discarded as a result of inefficiency in the human-managed food chain.

With that in mind, the food cold supply chain is turning to RFID-based solutions that can monitor temperature and expiration dates. In November, Intelleflex launched on-demand, product-level monitoring system for perishable foods and the pharmaceutical cold chain.

The Intelleflex solution was recently featured in a news segment by WKGO-TV, an affiliate of ABC News. Click here to watch the video.

A blurb from the news report:

By most accounts, one-third of all fruits and vegetables are discarded somewhere between the field and the customer because it is so difficult to monitor the shelf life of produce. A temperature variation of just 2 degrees during shipment can cut 4 days off the life of berries and bananas. Current technology monitors only a whole truck, regardless of which side travels in the sun or other factors. This technology, on the other hand, records what happens to every pallet, every minute, every step of the way.

Peter Mehring, CEO of Santa Clara’s Intelleflex says, “We collect a month of temperature data in one tag that can be quickly be read out and be displayed on our handheld readers.”

Click here to view RFID 24-7′s coverage on how RFID is being used in agriculture.

Wisconsin farmers surpass one million mark for livestock tagging

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Tracking animals with RFID continues to explode, especially in Wisconsin, where dairy farmers recently tagged their one-millionth cow.

By comparison, only 138,260 RFID tags had been recorded for tracking animals two years ago. By March 2009, that number had grown to 405,134. According to the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium, only 16 percent of the milking dairy herd in Wisconsin is identified by RFID, leaving room for massive growth.

“Wisconsin farmers have really stepped up to the plate when it comes to using RFID,” says Ben Brancel, Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for the state of Wisconsin. “Using RFID improves traceability and opens doors to international markets.”

Animal tracking with RFID – tags are usually placed in the animal’s ear — is being driven by consumers who are more conscious of where their food comes from, as well as safety and food tracing initiatives. In addition, the agricultural industry is pressing for more traceability due to residue and disease issues.

For example, farmers saw significant benefits when TB-tests had to be conducted on a 3,000-cow herd that had been exposed by imported cattle. Brancel says that 360 animals an hour needed to be tested each hour to avoid disrupting the milking operation. If authorities had to manually read and record data for that many animals, it would have required 36 staff members and cost $84,000. Because the herd was tagged with RFID, only six people were needed to complete testing, at a cost of $22,000. Just as important, the producer’s operation experienced no interruptions in processing.

“We’ve seen a dramatic example of how RFID can save producer headaches and taxpayer dollars,” says Brancel. “Those are results you can take to the bank, and we’re glad Wisconsin farmers know that.”

Over the past few years, WLIC has worked with producers, county fairs, veterinarians, and other livestock groups to promote the value of animal identification and RFID for herd management as well as animal health and traceability purposes. WLIC also offers tag programs where producers and county fairs looking to implement RFID can apply to receive RFID tags at no cost. These tags are distributed on a first come, first serve basis, to qualified applicants.

Hiroshima Rose Nursery deploys RFID to increase customer visibility for thousands of rose plants

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

The Hiroshima Rose Nursery has turned to battery-assisted passive (BAP) RFID technology to track thousands of high-value rose bushes.

The nursery, which grows about 500 types of roses, requires accurate real-time inventory and location data, primarily for customer inquiries. In order to provide instant plant visibility, the nursery tagged thousands of plants with PowerID PowerG tags, installed ceiling-antennas, and connected the latter to standard RFID readers in the nursery’s greenhouses to provide instant plant visibility. With the system in place, customers are now able to log on to the nursery’s portal and check inventory and plant status in real-time.

PowerID, a provider of BAP RFID technology, worked with Honest, an auto ID system integrator and software vendor in Japan to design the system to track the high-value rose plants. Honest purchased the tags from PowerID’s Tokyo-based partner and agent, Japan21. A major requirement for the tags was that they could be read from 20 meters.

Honest expects to deploy the same system in other rose nurseries and envisions other agriculture customers requiring similar systems for real-time location of inventory. 

“We are delighted that our BAP RFID tags are being successfully used in an RTLS application at the Hiroshima Rose Nursery,” said Erez Kahani, CEO of PowerID. “We are also happy that our partnership with Japan21 continues to flourish and bear fruit, and we look forward to continued traction in the Japanese market.”

RFID is being used more and more in the agriculture industry, including tracking millions of reusable portable trays that transport flowers from nurseries to retailers. In addition, RFID is being used to track Koa plants in Hawaii.