MANAGING a fresh produce supply chain during a natural disaster can pose a significant challenge for growers and businesses.
For this reason, a trial is underway to assess a digital traceability system to help manage food supply chains in such events, as well as during biosecurity incursions and food safety breaches.
The tested technology allows regulators and retailers to access information about farms and what they are growing, as well as real-time data about where products are in the supply chain.
It will use blockchain technology, quality sensors and GS1 Data standards, focussing initially on cherries and potatoes sold in select Woolworths stores under its own brand label.
NSW DPI development officer Jessica Fearnley said the need for an integrated traceability system was highlighted during the 2019 bushfires, when regulators needed immediate information about which agricultural properties were at threat and where food was in the supply chain.
"The system will be invaluable in emergency response situations such as bushfire, but also in a biosecurity incursion or food safety breach, which are complex investigations in which it can take weeks to identify the source of the threat," Ms Fearnley said.
Food Agility chief scientist Professor David Lamb said the system aimed to protect consumers and industries and that the research team would conduct mock track and trace exercises.
"We'll put the system to the test, simulating a bushfire response or a fruit fly incursion, and testing how much faster we can be in identifying individual properties and products," Professor Lamb said.
Woolworths commercial director of fruit and veg Paul Turner said the project would help deliver on its strategic priority of end-to-end product traceability.
"Because the system uses QR codes on packets, we will also be able to provide product knowledge, provenance and usage tips to our customers," Mr Turner said.
"This is a way to engage our customers with how and where their food is grown, while providing confidence in food safety and quality."
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