At a time when the digital transfer of information has never been so important, work is steadily progressing on the ability to electronically transfer wool clip information from farm to warehouse.
But experts say more work is required before it is commercially implementable.
In the last 12 months, the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) e-Bale project has conducted over 20 trials on farms throughout Australia on clips ranging in size from 50 to 1500 bales.
The tags contain an RFID chip, with the matching QR code and the last 10 digits of the number printed on the external surface of the bale.
AWEX technical projects manager, Dr Kerry Hansford said the e-Bale tags had already been tested from farm to mill to ensure that the RFID technology could survive throughout the entire supply chain.
"This meant from farm to store to dump, containerisation, shipping and subsequent reading the tags at processing mills in Italy, Czech Republic and China, which were all successful," Dr Hansford said.
"Mills involved in the farm to mill trials were excited by the prospects afforded by e-Bale as it relates to traceability, quality assurance and increased efficiencies particularly in warehouses and processing plants."
She said the current pilot trials are being undertaken at different locations along the wool pipeline to develop, test and refine software and infrastructure allowing all industry participants to communicate with each other.
A prerequisite for involvement in the pilot trials is that AWEX's online internet and smartphone app WoolClip is used when classing the clip.
Dr Hansford said WoolClip allowed the user to create classer documents including wool book, consignments, specifications and National Wool Declarations, as well as capture the unique e-Bale identification.
"For these trials, tags are adhered to the outside of the pack label, with the smartphone app used to scan the QR code into the WoolClip classer's speci, thus uniquely capturing each bale," she said.
"This methodology is used so that a farmer does not have to purchase an RFID scanner for use at shearing."
She said the information gained from the latest trials had been invaluable in identifying issues and potential improvements to the WoolClip software, as well as ironing out RFID tag production problems.
"AWEX staff have attended shearing sheds and are helping to identify and resolve issues regarding the best way to use WoolClip and e-Bale in wool sheds of all types," she said.
"These have been from superfine clips with multiple lines of wool to large scale operations where the turn-over, or the pressing of bales, is extremely high."
Dr Hansford said WoolClip and e-Bale would continue to be trialed in all states, with the participation of growers facilitated by brokers as well as AWEX connections from its membership base including SustainaWOOL.
"We have proven the RFID tag technology, but more work is required to enable commercial implementation," she said.
"These trials provide the complementary benefit of training wool classers and owners in the use of WoolClip with the potential for improving its adoption."
The cost of RFID tags is based on the number of tags purchased.
Currently, AWEX is purchasing small numbers of tags at a price point of US$1 but Dr Hansford said this cost would decrease once tag purchases increased to over 500,000 tags.
She said she was confident e-Bale would be adopted on an industry-wide basis, with the preferred tag becoming part of AWEX's Wool Pack Standard.
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