A “revolutionary” active RFID tag that supplies information on the remaining shelf-life of fresh produce will lead to significant reductions in food waste, the device’s manufacturers have claimed.
Dutch company Ambient Systems and Information Highway Group (IHG), of Spain, said their third generation active Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system uses intelligent tags with an inbuilt shelf-life algorithm that provide detailed data on the quality of food once it reaches a distribution centre or processing facility.
“What is revolutionary about this Cool Chain Monitor is the tag is not just designed to transmit an identification number but has extended memory and runs a programme that gives information on temperature and shelf-life,” Eelco de Jong, Ambient director of marketing and business development, told FoodProductionDaily.com.
The company said the significance of its RFID tag is clear given findings from a recent Dutch government finding that up to 50 per cent of food products are wasted in the food supply chain.
A recent pilot project conducted with Spanish organic strawberry producer Bionest demonstrated the benefits the system can bring to reduce food waste, it said. Strawberries were chosen because they and other soft fruits are highly sensitive to temperature conditions rank among the product categories with the highest loss in the supply chain. With better visibility on temperature conditions during transport and by applying a unique shelf-life algorithm, this loss can be reduced significantly, said the company.
At the start of the transport process in Spain, Ambient's SmartPoints RFID tags were placed in the strawberry pallets. During transport they measured the temperature every 15 minutes. Upon arrival at the German distribution centre, the temperature conditions and remaining shelf life of each pallet were communicated wirelessly through Ambient’s wireless network with GPRS connection. A web-based application from IHG made transport conditions and food quality immediately available after arrival to both Bionest and the retailer, said the company. Bionest said the system “immediately identified areas to further improve the supply chain performance with our logistics partners”.
“By applying this algorithm to the temperature history of each pallet, end users can select the ripest fruit for immediate sale. This provides a feasible solution for ‘First Expire – First Out’ operations,” said Ambient.
The tag can be configured to monitor numerous kinds of fruit and vegetables but could also be developed for the meat and even pharmaceutical sectors, added de Jong. When the tag is within a network, it will transmit information at whatever time frequency required by the customer. Outside network coverage, the device stores all data and sends it automatically when coverage is resumed.
“The system offers one seamless solution to monitor product throughout the supply chain,” said de Jong. “It increases profits for food producers and processor as well as retailers, and addresses the objectives for a more sustainable food supply chain.”