The Australian Table Grape Association (ATGA) has secured a major innovative project to strengthen table grape traceability for high-value export markets.
ATGA and Agriculture Victoria will partner to lead the A$650,000 project (US$476,000), funded by the Victorian Government from its Food to Market program.
The pilot – which commenced in June 2021 – will run for the duration of the 2021/22 table grape harvest season, and aims to build, diversify and protect exports by developing producer-to consumer traceability.
Australia’s table grapes are the nation’s largest fresh horticulture export, valued at $800 million in total, with $623 million export product. Ninety per cent of Australia’s table grape exports are generated by Victorian producers and exporters, for a value of $562 million across 152,000 tonnes of table grape exports.
ATGA said Australian table grape producers and exporters have a responsibility to maintain and elevate standards of safety and quality for consumers, to bolster export capacity in a changing global market. Implementing new traceability systems, including labelling and integration with cool chain tracking, will help leverage the value of Australian export brands, previously impeded at times by limited product and cool chain traceability as fruit enters export countries, it said.
Victorian Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas announced the $8.4 million first tranche of the program, which will see the ATGA – among 13 key industry and regional peak bodies – receive funding to support projects that will add value to food grown and processed in Victoria.
ATGA CEO Jeff Scott welcomed the pilot project, and said traceability was pivotal to reinforcing competitiveness in international markets.
“It is important that all growers embrace traceability of their product to ensure the link from the grower to the consumer gives confidence all the way through the supply chain of a high quality product and food safety,” Mr Scott said.
Fruit Master, a large Australian producer and exporter, will apply leading traceability technology and cool chain tracking to premium fruit brands and varieties across table grape exports this upcoming season.
Fruit Master export sales manager Christian Jones said Fruit Master growers invest significant time and money into developing premium products, and that utilising technologies which highlight that quality to their customers would be a vital step forward for industry.
“Traceability works as an extension of 12 months of hard work,” Jones said. “Continuing to evolve this link enhances the supply chain and brings the consumer’s experience closer to the source.”
Technology provider Result Group will apply unique serialised GS1 Digital Link-enabled QR code labels to export table grapes, allowing the automated collection of data from farm and supply chain, which can be shared with consumers to authenticate the food’s precise origin and engage with the brand through an open platform smartphone scan.
The Active Digital Identity embedded in the QR code labels ensures each one is unique and traceable – an important innovation in combatting all manner of food fraud. Labels will also carry critical international traceability data, based on GS1 current standards, covering consumer pack units, cases and pallet codes, as well as time and temperature logging, which will be captured through the EVRYTHNG Product Cloud® database.
Result Group general manager Michael Dossor said they were “beyond excited and proud” to be the traceability technology provider for the program.
“We have assembled the world’s best technology and, with local talent, adapted it to make it right for the Australian produce sector,” Dossor said. “Consumers the world over are seeking transparency, while brands are seeking visibility into the journey of individual products from farm through supply chains to consumption.”
GS1 traceability standards will be incorporated into the pilot, enhancing the international compatibility of these supply chains for global exports. GS1 Australia chief customer officer Marcel Sieira said GS1 was pleased to support traceability projects through advice on GS1 standards and labelling options.
“GS1 standards enable organisations to identify, capture and share information smoothly, creating a common language that underpins systems and processes all over the world,” Sieira said.
The pilot project will run for the duration of the 2021/22 export season and conclude in January 2023. The Victorian Government’s Food to Market program is a $15 million commitment to invest in the state’s agri-food supply chain.