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How to use radiofrequency identification technology to improve food products’ traceability

  • ESTIIC project

 The ESTIIC project ‘Fostering Competitiveness through Innovation and the Information Society’ was a 3 year Regional Framework Operation within the INTERREG IIIC initiative that took place from April 2005 to June 2008. The main objective of the project aimed at improving the effectiveness of policies in terms of reaction capacity to face and solve the needs of small and medium size companies. This was done through the development of a micro-financing programme to fund technology innovation and information society promoting sub-projects.

 This project was possible thanks to the collaboration between regional and local authorities, development agencies, professional organisations, training centres and technology and research centres from the regions of Asturias (Spain), Cantabria (Spain), North-Rhine Westphalia (Germany) and South-East Ireland (Ireland).

 In 2006, in the framework of the ESTIIC project, eight interregional cooperation sub-projects were selected for being financed. These eight sub-projects involved many different sectors such as: radiofrequency identification (RFID), nanotechnology, individualised publication strategies, university research adaptation to the small companies’ needs, broadband regional service development, commercial potentiality of online health services and the use of geo-locating information in the business process.

 In addition, the four regional partners developed some other initiatives linked to the topics of these sub-projects, namely: five regional studies, two workshops addressed to small and medium sized enterprises, five international conferences and two study visits. These activities contributed to the elaboration of the European ICT Manifesto for the Regions.

  • CABRFID sub-project

One of the financed sub-projects was CABRFDI and it was held in Asturias. This sub-project combined RFID technology and food products. It consisted on developing a prototype that ensured cheeses’ traceability by using special labels.

The Cabrales cheese is produced by a few family companies in the mountains of Asturias. These small producers are obliged to follow the European law that requires the following up and the localisation of the product all along the production process. Thanks to the RFID technology, they have been able to register and ensure the traceability of every single cheese.

The goal of this sub-project was to develop a reliable labelling for the traceability of each cheese which is applied at the first stage of production, continues in the ripening process and finally follows the cheese on its way into food shops.

During the first stage of production, a transponder was applied to the cheese; the transponder had to be small enough to allow the cheese to breathe during the ripening process and to ensure that no external elements or flavourings got into the cheese during the process.

During packaging, the transponder was removed and replaced by a serial number which allowed the cheese to be traced back to source from the counter at the supermarket. By entering this serial number into a website, the consumer is able to find out which farm supplied the milk that went into the cheese, when the cheese was made and how long it spent in the ripening caves.

As Alberto Meana, from the Inter-professional Milk Laboratory of Asturias, explained: “the idea came from the conjoint efforts from the Government of the Principality ofAsturias, IDEPA (Economic Development Agency of the Principality of Asturias) and the laboratory for the Protected Designation of Origin “Cabrales cheese” together with the recognition of the need of supporting small producers working to manufacture a high quality cheese ensuring that this quality is approved by the market thanks to the introduction of new technologies such as radiofrequency”.

In Euromontana we think that this good practice is an interesting example of how to implement traceability in mountain products using new technologies and being innovative, contributing to transfer the added value of the mountain products to the consumer.

If you want to know more about the ESTIIC project, please, click here.

If you want to learn more about the CABRFID sub-project, please click here to watch a video (only available in Spanish).

21 May 2015

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