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RFID Keeps Cherries Fresh

A project involving fresh-fruit producer Apo Conerpo and Nordiconad, an Italian retail cooperative, reveals how RFID can help track the storage temperatures of cherries moving through the cold chain.
By Rhea Wessel
Aug 09, 2007The RFID Lab at the University of Parma and several partners have completed a pilot tracking the temperatures of cherries shipped from the field by Apo Conerpo, a producer of fresh fruit, to stores that are part of Nordiconad, a division of the Conad retailing cooperative. The pilot was conducted in the cities of Modena and Albenga, Italy. The aim of the project was to track the storage temperatures of the cherries throughout the entire supply chain, from the producer, where the RFID sensor was activated, to the shop floor, where it was switched off.

"Many cold-chain pilots I've heard of cover a single process, such as storage or transportation, but not the whole supply chain," says Antonio Rizzi, a full professor of industrial logistics and supply-chain management at the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Parma. Rizzi is the founder and head of the RFID Lab, which led the project.

Antonio Rizzi
The cold-chain pilot was part of the Frutticultura project, headed by the Centro Ricerche Produzioni Vegetali and funded by the Emilia Romagna region. Partners include Apo Conerpo and Nordiconad, which monitored the bins of cherries at two distribution centers and shipped them to six department stores (three in Emilia Romagna and three in Liguria). Italian IT solutions provider Di.Tech, along with the University of Parma, supervised software implementation and data analysis.

The one-month project, timed to coincide with the cherry-harvest season in Italy, concluded in July. During that month, partners tagged approximately 120 reusable plastic containers with custom-designed RFID temperature sensors, called MTSens, provided by Italian company Montalbano Technology (see Pharma Label Maker to Test Tags That Record Temps).

Once the tag was switched on at the grower's site, the MTSens began collecting temperature data, which was then stored on the tag with corresponding information regarding time. The semi-active, battery-powered tags function at 13.56 MHz and comply with the ISO 15693 standard. Tags were mounted between boxes of cherries and reusable containers, as well as underneath sheets of paper.

Eight desktop USB readers made by FEIG Electronic were employed in the application. One interrogator was used by the producer for activating tags after the cherries were packaged; University of Parma researchers utilized a second for downloading temperature logs; and a third was employed for switching off RFID tags at each of the six stores selling the cherries.

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