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Forestry Company Expands RFID Deployment

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods is printing and encoding RFID tags onsite to record each tree's maintenance and location, while the company intends to also track equipment and personnel.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 23, 2013

For the past four years, Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (HLH) has been planting koa and other indigenous species of trees on former pastureland located on Hawaii Island (the Big Island). The company operates a for-profit division that plants trees for harvest, while its nonprofit division, LegacyTrees.org, plants koa trees for the purpose of permanent reforestation. Investment trees are sold in lots of 100, at a one-time cost of $9,380, for the 2013-14 planting season. The nonprofit division allows an individual to sponsor what HLH calls a "legacy tree," often in memory of a loved one, for the price of $60, of which $20 goes to a charity of the customer's choice, with $1 donated to the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.

Central to the company's operation is an RFID and GPS technology solution that makes it possible to identify every tree as it grows from a seedling at a nursery to a tree in the forest. Initially, the system was designed to uniquely identify each tree via a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag, with users employing handheld readers to interrogate those tags as the trees were planted, and again 25 year later during harvesting (see RFID Helps Foresters Grow Koa Trees). However, to support the reforestation activity's expansion, the RFID system needed to be revamped in order to be able to track the large volume of trees that customers want planted and cultivated for a permanent forest.

Each seedling receives its own tag, encoded via a Zebra R110Xi4 RFID printer.
To date, Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods has dedicated approximately 1,000 acres of land to reforestation efforts on the slopes of Mauna Kea, an inactive volcano. However, the company is currently negotiating for the purchase of sufficient acreage to increase that size many times over. Most of the firm's growth has been in the realm of legacy forest tree planting, in which individuals purchase a seedling to be planted permanently and cared for within the dedicated forest.

William Gilliam, HLH's chief information officer, says that some new features have already been incorporated into its RFID-based tracking system, while others are still in the works, to be implemented later this year or in 2014.

For instance, Gilliam says, the company recently began printing and encoding its own EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags to keep up with demand. When HLH first launched its operations, it required about 40,000 tags annually. But more recently, the firm has needed 120,000 tags for a single planting season. To address this tag volume, the company acquired an RFID printing-encoding solution, supplied by SimplyRFID, featuring a Zebra Technologies R110Xi4 printer-encoder to generate labels more quickly.

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