ROCKMELONS grown in the Sunraysia region have been tracked through the entire supply system right onto the plate of the consumer.
In what's believed to be an Australian first, the Dawson Melon Co in Red Cliffs, Victoria utilised blockchain tracing and smartphone scanning technology to see precisely where its cut and whole melons were ending up.
The initiative comes on the back of funding from the Australian Government Traceability Grants Program last year which FreshChain secured.
It's a significant step of confidence for the entire rockmelon industry which was hammered by a listeria outbreak traced to the fruit in 2018.
Last year, the NSW Department of Primary Industries released a best practice guide for rockmelons and speciality melons.
Dawson Melon Co's Brad Dawson said there was value in investing in traceability technology.
"We have seen the consequences of what happens when issues cannot be contained quickly and efficiently," Mr Dawson said.
"We must, as a fresh food community look beyond our individual operations and contribute to future proofing the entire horticulture industry and I believe that delivering end to end traceability is a significant step in the right direction."
Market Place Fresh managing director Stephen Fanous said he was pleased to support the project and provide in-store support.
"Our goal is to lead in providing consumers with the best and safest produce available but also support our grower network to ensure they remain viable and sustainable," Mr Fanous said.
"A good portion of our sales are on cut products so it is incumbent on retailers to help close the loop or we lose visibility on a major portion of product that will be purchased.
"This is a great initiative and one that has been a long time coming."
Mr Dawson thanked both Market Place Fresh and Harris Farm Markets for their support.
While encouraged with the support from growers and retailers, FreshChain director Greg Calvert said it would take time to explain the features, adoption method and benefits to gain full support from the fresh food community.
"We know that every operation is different, has its own nuances and complexities and so we have built a system that is adaptable, irrespective of your commodity, current size or level of digitisation," Mr Calvert said.
"Our encrypted, unique and serialised QR codes are GS1 Digital Link ready and this is the next step to removing barcode duplication - a single 2D QR code for consumers to engage and retailers to scan at the point of sale.
"We welcome all fresh food retailers to join us on this journey to enhance traceability and connect consumers with farmers in a new way."
Exports also explored
ALONGSIDE developing the domestic traceability program, FreshChain has also successfully tracked the exact path of rockmelons exported from Victoria to Canada and the United Kingdom.
The melons in the trial were also from Dawson Melon Co.
Federal agriculture minister David Littleproud said the digitised tracing of Honey Kiss and Sugar Kiss varieties from farm to major export markets in the United Kingdom and Canada was innovation in action.
"Exporting fruit that is traceable through the supply chain ensures food safety, boosts biosecurity and enhances the confidence of our trading partners and consumers," Mr Littleproud said.
"I'm very excited about the potential applications of the technology used in this successful trial in strengthening traceability in horticultural supply chains.
"The blockchain-enabled traceability systems along with proper labelling and QR codes consumers can scan is a win-win for all supply chain participants.
"Our clean green reputation makes Australian produce valued overseas and we have to protect that."
The products land on international supermarket shelves labelled with a QR code that consumers can scan to find out traceability details.
FreshChain's Mr Calvert said the first pilot of exporting rockmelon varieties proved the power of traceability and enhances Australia's export offering.
"We have recently sent consignments to Canada, and now to the United Kingdom, with markets in Singapore and Hong Kong likely to follow soon," Mr Calvert said.
Dawson Melon Co's Mr Dawson said the technology was about sharing not just the safe, delicious and traceable produce but also the farming story, and connecting with consumers in a new way.
"We must, as a fresh food community look beyond our individual operations and contribute to future proofing the entire horticultural industry and I believe that delivering blockchain end to end traceability is a significant step in the right direction," Mr Dawson said.
"It's amazing to think that we now have innovative end to end traceability of melons from Red Cliffs along the supply chain to London and Toronto."
The Australian Government Traceability Grants Program runs until June 2023 as part of the Australian Government's Modernising Agricultural Trade agenda.
Australian melon growers produce about 217,000 tonnes of melons annually across an area of around 8500 hectares.
For the year ending June 2019 Australia produced 291,089 tonnes of fresh melons, valued at $181 million.
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