The project, launched this week by the University of Florida IFAS's Centre for Food Distribution and Retailing (CFDR), will provide an examplefor all companies worldwide on how to link the capabilities of RFID with a national or global network so all participants in the supply chain have the latest available information.
Perishable food products account for half of all retail food sales in the US. High losses during transport translate into razor-thin profits that average about 1.4 per cent, stated Jeffrey Brecht,the centre's director.
"For perishables, only 19 per cent of the retail price represents the amount paid to growers," he stated in an announcement of the centre's opening. "The balance covers marketingand distribution as well as losses, which means there are real opportunities for improving the process from growers to the shelves of a retail store."
The pilot project, named Visibility Validated (V2), will target the entire food chain, ranging from growers and packers to shippers and transportation services as well as warehouse operators,wholesalers and retailers.
V2 will measure the impact of improved supply chain visibility between suppliers and retailers. The V2 project is focused on the publishing of observation events to a virtual test bed simulation ofthe EPCglobal network, an Internet based supply chain information system.
The V2 project is being conducted in cooperation with suppliers, a retailer and other technology providers.
Technology provider RedTail Solutions is developing the business intelligence interface to work with VeriSign's Track and Trace Services.
Publix Super Markets has volunteered to be the test retailer for this project. Publix is the largest employee-owned supermarket chain in the US. All tracked shipments will be received at the Publixdistribution center in Lakeland, Florida.
Del Monte Fresh Produce, Tanimura & Antle, A. Duda & Sons and Ballantine Produce are also participating.
Brecht said since 40 per cent of the perishable produce from Central and South America enters the US through Florida, the state is a logical site for research in the supply chain dynamics of suchgoods.
Because of the rapid globalisation of agricultural trade, he expects the centre to become a valuable source of information for food distribution throughout the world.
RFID tags contain a microchip and a tiny antenna that send the price and other information about the product to a computer. The technology also allows products to be tracked through every stage ofthe supply chain, recording temperature, shock and other conditions during shipping.
The RFID pilot project is the first for the centre, which opened this week as a research and education institution on the entire food distribution chain from farm to fork. The centre willconcentrate on perishable food products such as fresh produce, meat, fish and baked goods, said Jeffrey Brecht, the centre's director.
The centre will also focus on improving packaging design.
RFID has long been touted as the future of logistics for all companies by allowing retailers and suppliers to track goods throughout the supply chain. Radio frequency identification (RFID) is awireless form of automated identification technology. Analysts believe RFID will become critical to most supply chains within the next ten to 20 years, with the market projected to be worth $1bn by2006.