AUSTRALIA – The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) has developed a traceability adoption framework for the melon industry to ensure the industry leads in traceability based on globally accepted Global Standards 1 (GS1).

This was part of a project with peak industry body Melons Australia, on enhancing seamless data flow in the traceability of seedless watermelons.

The project is aimed to maximize consumer engagement with the farmer while boosting confidence in the freshness and food safety of cut watermelons.

Achieving through-chain data flow in produce traceability remains a significant industry challenge, as the traceability data flow can be interrupted along the supply chain through different events.

For example, a whole watermelon is transformed to cut pieces and put on display in the supermarket. Even if the whole fruit is labelled, the cutting in-stores tends to interrupt the flow of traceability data to the consumer.

Seedless watermelons in the domestic supply chain have been trialed in a track and trace pilot involving a Queensland melon grower, along with support from SMA Marketing, FreshChain and Woolworths.

As part of this pilot, each whole watermelon was labelled on-farm with serialized and unique QR code with a GS1 digital link URI carrying vital information for partners in the supply chain.

Melons Australia noted the trial successfully transferred all the whole watermelon data seamlessly across to the cut product of that specific fruit, thus maintaining traceability from farm to the consumer in an Australian first.

The process to deliver this outcome was a FreshChain solution deployed across the supply chain, including printing labels on-demand in the store with variable data for cut pieces, reports Fresh Plaza.

The cut-product label also included a human-readable date and time of cut plus a barcode for point-of-sale scan in the supermarket. For consumers, QR codes provided information on farm location, harvest date, food safety certifications and an option to offer feedback on fruit quality.

Melons Australia Executive Officer, Johnathon Davey says the melon industry is taking the lead in the digitization of product identity and production data sharing and is heavily focused on seeking consumer feedback on the fruit quality.

“Consumers’ familiarity with QR codes during COVID-tracing provides industry with a great opportunity to present QR codes for consumers to scan and appreciate the fruit’s journey and the story of the grower. We also encourage consumers to provide us with feedback on the fruit quality,” he said.

The melon industry is a significant contributor to the fresh fruit exports from Australia and is ambitious to bolster its presence in the premium export markets by delivering high quality, safe and traceable products.

This traceability initiative is aimed to enhance melon traceability, and supply chain monitoring, help prevent food fraud and enable consumer engagement. Implementing digital traceability along with proper labelling can help the industry unlock its competitiveness potential in the high-value export markets.

To overcome the barriers to the adoption of digital traceability, the project team has developed a decision support system which is currently being validated through these pilot trials.

This would enable the melon growers to select the best traceability solution which could meet their business needs and compliance requirements for domestic and export market access.

“A uniform and consistent approach to promoting standards-based traceability are fundamental to ensure the traceability systems in the horticulture sector are fit-for-all across the supply chain.

“In this pilot, we have overcome the greatest challenge of traceability data flow in the melon supply chain,” Dr S.P. Singh, NSW DPI’s Lead Researcher said.

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