HORTICULTURE exports heading specifically to China will be better traced thanks to a Tasmanian research project.
University of Tasmania researchers will develop the supply-chain traceability system after winning a $455,000 Commonwealth Government grant aimed at modernising Australia's agricultural trade.
Associate Professor Jiangang (Johnny) Fei from the Australian Maritime College was the lead applicant for the team which successfully applied for funding under the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment's Traceability Grants Program.
The University's application was one of just 16 to be funded from a total of 168 applications.
"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, a specialist in logistics and maritime management, said.
More than 70 per cent of Australian horticultural products are exported, with China a key market.
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According to Austrade, Australian fruit, vegetable and nut exports to China jumped in value by nearly 180 per cent from 2015 to 2017.
Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture research team member, Professor Dugald Close said food quality, safety, freshness and taste were paramount in the minds of China's burgeoning middle class.
"Tasmania's clean, green brand has our horticultural sector well positioned to help meet that growing demand," he said.
"We will develop a system that will allow two-way tracing of horticultural products along the supply chain, providing for streamlined extraction of information for compliance, food safety, and proof of provenance and authenticity."
The growing export market for Tasmanian cherries (valued at $39m in 2017-18) is just one area that will benefit from this new system.
A small electronic device attached to each package will provide a unique identity.
For each pallet, a sensor is attached with which all individual electronic devices can communicate via sensor nodes and gateways.
The sensor will measure temperature, humidity and other required information along the entire supply chain. It will also record event data such as arrival at a depot or change of transport mode.
The sensor will communicate with the cloud-based data management centre and upload supply chain information in predetermined intervals.
Extensive input from advanced horticultural supply chain partners will ensure a digital architectural design that is fit for purpose.
This data will be made available to all supply chain participants and other stakeholders.
Sense-T's Associate Professor Stephen Cahoon said routinely recorded data, including the pre-harvest seasonal conditions, production details such as agri-chemical use, and fruit variety, quantity, quality, location and time of packing, will be uploaded to the cloud-based data management centre.
"Access will be provided to supply-chain participants to upload and retrieve this information to generate reports as needed and appropriate," Associate Professor Cahoon said.
"These participants would include growers, local and international transport providers, freight forwarders, and government agencies responsible for quarantine and customs clearance."
Firstly, it allows retailers and consumers to check the authenticity of the package. This is achieved through the unique identity device attached to each package.
Associate Professor Fei highlighted the crucial industry input.
"Extensive input from advanced horticultural supply chain partners will ensure a digital architectural design that is fit for purpose," he said.
"The system will be modular with scalability and applicability in mind to ensure relevance to other Australian fresh produce supply chains with minimal modification.
"The end-user application has three main functions.
"Firstly, it allows retailers and consumers to check the authenticity of the package. This is achieved through the unique identity device attached to each package.
"The application allows a mobile device such as a smart phone to retrieve identity information of the package.
"Secondly, consumers can check the provenance of the product they are purchasing through the unique ID given to the package.
"Thirdly, 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."
The UTAS research team also includes Associate Professor Laurie Bonney from Sense-T and Dr Saideepa Kumar from the TIA.
Federal agriculture minister, David Littleproud modern, accurate, and timely traceability systems assure Australia's trading partners and consumers that the produce is of the highest quality and safety standards.
"To ensure a digital solution that is fit for purpose, horticultural supply chain partners will be actively involved in the design process," Mr Littleproud said.
"The system will also be built to ensure it can be adapted to other Australian fresh produce supply chains with minimal modification.
"Key importers from Shanghai markets have already expressed enthusiasm for the market advantage a digital promotion app will provide.
"As we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's more important than ever to ensure farmers can put their best
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