Counterfeiters caught by ‘smart’ fingerprints

Tasmanian cherry grower, Reid Fruits, has foiled multiple counterfeiting attempts during the 2019/20 cherry season, thanks to Laava’s Smart Fingerprints.

Laava Smart Fingerprints are an Australian tech innovation developed in collaboration with CSIRO. Randomly generated, individual images are applied to product packaging in the form of a Laava Smart Fingerprint.

The images generated are unique to each individual product, and use proprietary optical scanning technology, making them much more secure than a QR code.

The patented technology was incorporated onto over 340,000 Reid Fruits cherry boxes, bound for 20 global markets. Around 150,000 boxes were sent to China, the company’s largest export market and also the destination where the Australian business has historically encountered significant counterfeit challenges.

Gavin Ger – Laava’s commercial director and joint CEO, said the Laava back-end system detected eight attempts to counterfeit the Laava Smart Fingerprint in the first week of Reid Fruits’ boxes entering the Chinese market last season.

When a counterfeit Reid Fruits cherry box featuring a counterfeited Laava Smart Fingerprint was scanned by the consumer, a ‘Suspected Counterfeit’ message was displayed on the consumer’s Smartphone screen, alerting them to the product not being authentic. Consumers also received support information provided by Reid Fruits.

Reid Fruits was the first Australian producer to export cherries to China and has a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities of the market there.

“We know Chinese consumers in particular are increasingly concerned about authenticity and have a very strong appetite for product information and brand stories that allow them to connect directly with Australian producers,” managing director of Reid Fruits Tim Reid said.

When consumers scan the Laava Smart Fingerprint on the product’s packaging, they not only get a guarantee of the product’s authenticity, but the digital platform also provides the user with a direct link to the business.

“Australian exporters can share information of interest to the end-consumer – such as their production process, the landscape where they grow their produce and the people behind their brand. Businesses can also choose to offer additional service options via the digital platform, such as placing orders or joining a membership list,” Mr Ger said.

The Reid Fruits and Laava teams are currently in discussions, considering additional product features and ways to collaborate again in season 20/21.

“Our initial pilot showed us the potential of the technology. We have not found any other comparable solution that can help us achieve our product integrity objectives, while helping us tell our brand story – at a commercially relevant price point, and without major changes to our operations,” Mr Reid said.

Laava’s pilot with Reid Fruits has been profiled by Austrade as a success story, and has caught the attention of other exporters and industries. Another leading NSW-based horticulture exporter began incorporating the Laava Smart Fingerprints on its export cartons just a little over a week after seeing the Laava Smart Fingerprints on Reid Fruits’ cherry boxes at the Sydney Growers market.

“We have been very focussed on integrating our Laava Smart Fingerprint technology with leading packaging, labeling, traceability and blockchain businesses. That makes sense from both a time and cost efficiency perspective for business owners,” Mr Ger said.

“Partnering is intrinsic to Laava’s business model. None of us can deliver everything exporters need, but together, we create powerful solutions. Part of the appeal of Laava Smart Fingerprints is that they are fast and easy to deploy, without disrupting packing or distribution operations,” he said.

Laava is also working with Citrus Australia and blockchain specialist Trust Provenance to improve the traceability of citrus exports. The $200,000 pilot project is funded by Agriculture Victoria, and aims to demonstrate how traceability can be applied to a horticultural business in real time.

Nathan Hancock, CEO of Citrus Australia said it had been collaborating with Laava, most notably on the scoping and development of a major industry pilot with two of its key members, one being Australia’s largest citrus packer/exporter, to leverage technology to increase trust and transparency in Australian horticultural exports.

“Laava’s ability to provide consumers with authentication and a gateway to the rich stories behind Australian exporters is of great interest to Citrus Australia and greatly complements our work in this area. I see great opportunity in the approach that Laava has taken with minimal barriers to connectivity along the entire value chain.”

In addition to Trust Provenance, Laava has developed consortium partnership models with leading Australian traceability and provenance assurance businesses including Fresh Supply Co, Source Certain International, BeefLedger and Geora.

The Laava team are focussed on working closely with a range of Australian food and beverage producers in 2020. “We are enjoying collaborating with a number of business owners and partners to realise the true potential of the Laava Smart Fingerprint technology,” Mr Ger said.

“Australian producers and manufacturers work too hard to have their product’s integrity and value exploited by counterfeiters and customers deserve to get what they pay for – they deserve to get the real thing.”

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