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RFID proves fruitful for produce tracking in Europe

An RFID tracing system for organic fruit and vegetables distributor/wholesaler Alterbio France is the first of its kind in the industry.

The implementation involves vendors Nordic ID (www.nordicid.com), Nitica (www.nitica.fr),
and OXL-Technologies (www.oxl-technologies.
net), which helped Alterbio move from a paper-based system to an RFID-based electronic data capture technology. The technology also reduces human error, according to Alterbio personnel.
The two-year project was finalized last year with the installation of OXL-Technologies’ Fructeo software and Nitica’s integration of a WLAN (wireless local area network).
The software gathers all necessary information providing each product with a unique tracking signature encoded in a ultra-high-frequency (UHF) tag. Nordic ID’s hand-held devices quickly and accurately read the tags.
Tracking has become increasingly of interest to the produce industry, and the operations at Alterbio in the Grand Saint-Charles area of France are no exception. Depending on the season, Alterbio handles nearly 50 varieties of vegetables and 30 types of fruit, putting the company among the top European distribution centers for fresh produce.
Alterbio founder and managing director Jean-Pierre Mathaly explains that rapid development of activities and data flows had made it necessary to enhance their tracking procedures. “We have always practiced traceability, but it was based on our excellent knowledge of our producers,” he says. “We needed to improve our systems in order to better manage volume, quality, and communication. Now we’re the first RFID-equipped company in the organic fruit and vegetables industry in Europe.”
Emmanuel Eichner, Alterbio communications manager, notes the important role that hand-held devices have played in bringing the company’s operations up to speed.
“The Nordic ID hand-held was an obvious choice thanks to its ergonomic design, powerful antenna range and ability to scan several tags at once,” he reports. “Everything going in and out is recorded in real time, which ensures traceability and good data management. Moreover, it reduces the risk of human error. It’s a real step forward. Before, we had to match up our figures to get back to the source, while using different numbers.”
The produce packer was even promoting its use of RFID for track-and-trace technology by touting it prominently on its Web site, www.alterbio.com

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