The seminar, entitled "Traceability - Your Product in the Pipeline," will include results of a pilot project using radio frequency identification (RFID) to trace food from the field to the shelf.
"With recent outbreaks of food borne illnesses, the vegetable industry has been proactive in developing a plan to trace any fresh product to its origination," said FFVA's marketing & international trade division director Danny Raulerson.
The seminar, coordinated by Raulerson, will cover lessons learned in the traceability pilot project conducted by the Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association that tested the feasibility of using RFID to track product starting at the distribution level.
"Many obstacles were overcome during the creation of this system. The seminar will show participants how this was accomplished," said Raulerson.
Guest speakers are Bruce Peterson, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of perishables for Wal-Mart, and Doug Grant, chief information officer for The Oppenheimer Group, a Canadian marketer of fresh produce from all over the world.
Peterson oversees all meat, produce, dairy, frozen, floral, bakery and commercial bread operations for Wal-Mart Stores, its domestic Supercenters and the new Neighborhood Markets. Grant serves on several industry committees; including co-chair of both Can-Trace and CPTTF Traceability committees. He received the 2003 Canadian Produce Man of the Year award. The convention is to be held 26 to 28 September 2004 in Florida, USA.
The ability to trace food to its origins has become an increasingly critical issue for biosecurity and food safety, and many food manufacturers are looking at how best to apply the concept to fresh produce. In a separate move, a partnership between Merit-Trax, Syscan and Sensor Wireless was recently formed for this specific purpose.
Merit-Trax Technologies has selected Syscan International as its exclusive supplier of RFID technology for its Trax-IT Fructus software application. The application is designed to record and report quality inspections and environmental conditions of fresh fruits and vegetables from harvest to retail.
"Merit-Trax has developed an innovative software/hardware offering for the fresh fruits and vegetables segment of the food industry supply chain that is a perfect fit for our RFID technology," said Syscan International president Axel Striefler.
"The immense potential of the fruit and vegetable marketplace is extremely exciting for our company and the sector is highly synergistic with our meat and seafood segment. We believe that Merit-Trax will play an important role in the deployment of our technology in the Americas."
Sensor Wireless has been selected to supply its sensor technology, which will provide environmental and physio-chemical information to complement the system.
The Merit-Trax solution provides traceability and automates the capture of the physio-chemical quality and environmental data of fresh produce. This, says the company, enables producers to measure the benefits of precision farming methods.
The technology also provides traceability to verify the quality of fresh produce as it moves through the supply chain by monitoring temperature and environmental conditions in real-time.
"Our Trax-IT Fructus software provides traceability, quality and inspection management in real-time from seed to the retailer's backdoor," said Merit-Trax director of sales and marketing Bob Aubertin.
"We strongly believe that Syscan's RFID technology will play a significant role in delivering an effective, efficient, value added application for our customers."
The application will be compliant with the EAN/UCC Global Standards for traceability and with international regulations for exporting produce to markets outside of Canada.