Researchers at the University of Tasmania have been awarded a $455,000 federal government grant to develop technology that will help combat fruit fraud.
Dubbed a “supply chain traceability system”, the new technology will allow both retailers and consumers to determine the true provenance of fruit and vegetables.
Australian Martime College associate professor Johnny Fei, an expert in logistics and maritime management, was the lead applicant for the team that successfully secured the grant funding, awarded under the Agriculture, Water and the Environment Department’s traceability grants program.
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“The department has outlined that improvements in the traceability of Australian horticultural products are critical due to the significant growth of production and exports in this sector and the increasing pressure from importing countries for traceability,” Associate Professor Fei said.
The researchers say the growing export market for Tasmanian cherries will be one that will benefit from the technology.
A small electronic device will be attached to each package of cherries, providing it with a unique identity. Meanwhile each pallet will have a sensor attached that will be able to measure temperature, humidity and other information along the supply chain.
Using cloud communication, supply chain information will be uploaded to a database and the data will be available to all participants in the supply chain, as well as other stakeholders.
“It allows retailers and consumers to check the authenticity of the package,” Associate Professor Fei said. “This is achieved through the unique identity device attached to each package.”
“The application can serve as a digital marketing tool to promote the provenance story of the product and other products that may be of interest.”
Researcher Dugald Close, a professor of horticulture at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, said the Tasmanian brand needed to be protected from those looking to undertake fruit fraud.
“It’s all about ensuring the fruit that lands in market has guaranteed provenance,” he said.
Tasmanian Liberal senator Jonathon Duniam said traceability technology would be a vital means of protecting the state’s export market for cherries into the future.
“Tasmanian cherries have a reputation for being the best on the market,” he said. “But being the best means others want to be like us, and sometimes they use unscrupulous methods to replicate Tasmanian fruit.”
“This undermines the well-deserved reputation of Tasmania’s brand, and that’s why traceability technology is so important.”
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