Australian Industries utilising RFID Technology Efficiently

RFID helps agri-businesses increase visibility from paddock to plate

 

RFID technology is well-established and widely used in supply chain and asset management in many global industries. Retail products such as apparel, eyewear, cosmetics, beauty products and many others are accurately tracked from point of manufacture to point of sale with limited human intervention. Similarly, assets including cars, trucks, construction equipment, technology and works of art can be easily tracked as they move around offices and work sites to avoid loss and the cost of replacement.

One of the more recently adopted applications of RFID technology is in improving the visibility and traceability of food and beverages, along with the raw materials, ingredients and other inputs that make up the total supply chain. Agri-business has a range of unique characteristics such as rapid time to market, limited shelf-life, large impact of environmental conditions and susceptibility to spoilage, waste and even disease. 

The potential for RFID technology solutions in agri-business is being realised right now, with a lot more upside for efficiency, insights and traceability for farmers, manufacturers, retailers, regulators and consumers alike.

 

What is RFID technology and how does it work?

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology solutions are made up of core components that work together to keep track of valuable produce, livestock, inventory, assets and even people. A ‘smart’ tag is affixed to an item needing to be tracked. RFID tags come in a variety of shapes, sizes and capabilities, but common to them all is the ability to store information (much more than standard barcodes) and communicate data such as movement and location back to a central database. 

RFID readers are used to ‘read’ tags from a distance, often with the simple wave of a hand in a packed storeroom full of tagged products using a handheld reader or App-enabled smartphone. In addition, fixed RFID readers or stations are strategically located in say a truck, container, storeroom, warehouse or workplace and they track the movement of items in and out.

All the information fed from tags to readers is then relayed to a central location where custom RFID software (such as RAMP’s Loca.fi) stores and analyses a huge amount of data to identify the precise location and condition of valuable items in real-time, as well as providing useful insights to help make more informed business decisions. 

 

How can RFID technology be used in agri-business?

At every stage of the food and beverage supply chain, from growing right through to consumption,  RFID tracking solutions can be used to monitor livestock and crops (and the environmental conditions that have an influence on yields), provide insights into inputs and components for food producers, and provide information about provenance for regulators and consumers.

 

What are some common applications of RFID technology in agri-business?

From the farm to the feast, RFID technology can help streamline processes, improve access to critical data and insights, and inform consumers of the source of everything they consume. Importantly, RFID solutions require little human intervention, so at every point along the supply chain, focus can be on using information, not manually collecting and sorting it.

Some key applications in the food and beverage supply chain for RFID technology include:

Farm automation and control: RFID crop tagging helps capture and store important information such as date harvested, field where harvested, temperature, weight and moisture level, without manual intervention. Specialised RFID tags and readers can even work in hot and humid conditions, such as in greenhouses. As produce moves along the supply chain, food processors can add information to the tags such as processing date, package weight etc.

Monitor conditions for improved yields: RFID tags can record and send information back to central software about climactic conditions under which crops are grown, harvested, stored and transported to help identify potential issues and ensure product freshness from source to destination.

Increase agricultural productivity: Farm workers can spend more time at the computer monitoring the status and health of their crops and livestock with accurate, real-time information provided by RFID tags in the field. Automation replaces manual process such as walking fields to inspect crops and livestock, gathering data and recording it manually, meaning more time can be spent managing farm business and intervening as required to avert potential problems.

Monitor livestock to detect diseases: Tagging livestock provides real-time traceability in the event of outbreaks of animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth. Specific herds can be identified and quarantined as required, exposure can be tracked, and relevant data easily provided to regulators on request. 

Informing consumers about food provenance: Increasingly, consumers are interested in the provenance of what they eat and drink for a number of reasons. Understanding the farming techniques used, environmental conditions, what pesticides were involved in food production or even the use of sustainable and ethical farming practices may be of interest to consumers. RFID solutions can track and record all this information from farm gates right to consumers’ plates. 

 

A word on waste

Besides the efficiencies for industry participants, oversight for regulators and peace of mind for consumers, RFID technology has the potential to tackle the massive issue of food waste all over the world. Estimates vary, but annual food waste could be as high as 30% of all food produced.  

With hundreds of millions of hungry people, a finite amount of natural resources, water scarcity and climate change, anything that can reduce food waste is extremely important. Not to mention the amount of food rotting in landfills and emitting methane, a very harmful greenhouse gas.

RFID technology can help reduce food waste in a number of ways:

  • With accurate and visible data, supermarkets can more easily match supply and demand
  • Automatic alerts to flag expiration dates can promote action to move or rotate stock
  • Temperature and general conditions can be monitored by tags to avoid spoilage
  • More precise handling of product recalls to avoid over-culling of stock

The adoption of RFID technology to improve supply chain efficiency, meet regulatory and compliance requirements, prove provenance and reduce overall costs will have the positive by-product effect of helping to reduce food waste all over the world. And that’s good news not just for the industry, but also the environment and our planet. 

 

You can rely on RAMP to serve up effective RFID technology solutions

Whether you are a farmer, manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler or retailer in the food and beverage industry, RAMP can help design and implement a cost-effective RFID technology solution to improve efficiency, minimise losses and increase visibility at every point of the supply chain.

RAMP has been working with Australian businesses for over a decade to design and implement customised RFID solutions to automate and streamline processes for supply chain management and to track inventory, assets, vehicles and people across a range of industries and applications. 

RAMP is the leading specialist provider of RFID technology solutions in Australia, and the best choice of partner for RFID solutions delivered by locally-based consultants, engineers and software developers.