Traceability trial a “game changer” for citrus industry

A $200,000 trial of traceability technology for citrus exports has seen more than 400,000 kg of premium fruit traced and verified from Mildura orchards through to international retail markets.

A partnership between Agriculture Victoria and Citrus Australia, and funded by the Victorian Government, the pilot traced fruit from Nu Leaf I.P. orchards in Mildura, through the Mildura Fruit Company packhouse, and on to international consumers.

The pilot, which has now concluded, used ‘digital fingerprint’ labelling developed by Laava ID and blockchain technology provided by Trust Provenance.

Fruit was scanned at over 50 retail and wholesale locations by overseas consumers, allowing them to verify that the fruit is a genuine Victorian product and to view the journey from “tree to table”.

The Australian citrus industry produces more than 750,000 tonnes of citrus each year, and last year eclipsed the $500 million mark in exports.

Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said the decision to lead the program that would improve traceability in horticulture supply chains was borne out of necessity.

“The scope and audacity of IP theft cost individual citrus businesses and the wider citrus industry millions of dollars every year,” Mr Hancock said.

“Our industry relies on its quality and the safety of the product we produce here in Australia. We have a premium product in our export markets and we need to be able to prove to our end supplier the origin of our product.”

Nu Leaf IP General Manager, Matthew Cottrell, one of the partners in the project, said growers invest significant time and resources planting premium varieties such as Tang-gold, a high value seedless mandarin variety.

“By using the digital fingerprint labelling on our packaging and our blockchain, it will help us protect our brands and also will allow the customer to directly access proof of origin and also the features of our fruit,” Mr Cottrell said.

“For consumers, it also helps give confidence that they are buying a premium variety with the features they desire.

“This technology is providing benefits throughout the supply chain, from legitimising plantings and fruit through to the protection of brands.”

Mildura Fruit Company sources fruit from about 140 growers in the Murray Valley region surrounding Mildura, with up to 85% of this exported to about 30 countries.

“In a typical season we will pack about 90 million kilos of fruit. It’s very important to understand where that fruit comes from and where it goes,” MFC General Manager, Perry Hill, said.

“This trial supplemented our existing systems, enabling us to track various packed items through to the end consumer.

“This technology will enable us to satisfy our customers that product they are receiving is coming from a reliable source.”

Laava ID uses advanced computer vision technology developed in collaboration with CSIRO to produce a unique ‘fingerprint’ that can be scanned by any smartphone.

Unlike barcodes or QR codes which have been used in the past, Laava’s Smart Fingerprint technology is much harder to impersonate or replicate (a technique known as ‘spoofing’) and much more secure, making it more resistant to counterfeiting.

Laava ID CEO Gavin Ger said the trial proved that the unique fingerprint technology could integrate with existing systems, in this case, MFC.

“Any pack house of any fruit can apply this solution,” Mr Ger said. “It’s a game changer.”

The project adds further value by providing consumers with additional information.

“By scanning the Laava Smart Fingerprint with their mobile phone, consumers can authenticate the products that they buy, learn more about their products, and engage deeper with the brands that made them,” he said.

Trust Provenance has built an integrity system that allows multiple data points to be linked into the one data platform.

Trust Provenance CEO Andrew Grant said the benefits of blockchain in traceability is that any data point that is stored on the blockchain cannot be changed.

“Bringing all these data sets together on the one platform also enables a number of business efficiencies and ultimately that brings a fresher and better quality product through to the consumer, who will have confidence they’re buying authentic Australian grown produce,” he said.

“In this project, we’re integrating data points from the grower, the pack shed, the logistics company, the food safety certification body and from data loggers which have got GPS and temperature data points throughout the journey.”

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