Hawaii Uses RFID to Track Produce For Food Safety Certification

HONOLULU, HI—The Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the 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 initiative, the first of its kind in the U.S., 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 an initiative web portal.

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.

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