Agribusiness Reaps Benefits from the Internet of Packaging

By Edson Perin

Thanks to RFID technology, farms can control production and inventories, factories can guarantee product authenticity and proper packaging disposal, and customers can thus know what they are consuming.

A technological phenomenon is taking place in the field. During November 2020's  IoP Journal Awards, the most-voted project was the use case of  ID-Cotton, which has developed a solution for tracing cotton products from cultivation to sustainability certification and final consumer use, including harvesting, storage, transportation and processing. Another winning use case related to agribusiness was from  Unipac, and it enabled packaging that guarantees a product's authenticity and the packaging's proper disposal.

These two use cases were based on radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. In the case of ID-Cotton, UHF RFID was employed, with tags embedded in the tarpaulins used to wrap the cotton harvested in rolls more than 2 meters (6.6 feet) high and weighing more than 2 tons. The tags were installed on the tarps at the request of  John Deere, a harvesting equipment manufacturer that employs the tags to monitor the work of the machines and automatically propose preventive maintenance.

The Unipac use case is based on Near Field Communication (NFC), a type of RFID technology, with tags that can be read by smartphones, allowing anyone with an NFC-enabled phone to interrogate a tag and confirm whether a product is authentic and properly packaged, thereby preventing fraud and forgery. After all, many agricultural pirates fill discarded packaging with dubious substances and then sell the fake products as the originals.

Recently, the  IoT Journal TV video channel on YouTube featured a case study similar to that of ID-Cotton, which was carried out at Agro Crestani, a farm located in Mato Grosso, Brazil. This use case confirms that the nation's agribusiness sector is reaping the advantages of the Internet of Packaging. At Agro Crestani, tarp tags are used to harvest cotton, with built-in RFID chips (requested by John Deere) that identify, monitor and organize crop products and their proper storage. The farm plans to identify and track the packaging of agricultural products in order to guarantee the authenticity of its chemicals and promote their proper disposal.

Another IoP Journal TV video explains how technology developed by  Embrapa, in partnership with software company  Siena Co., allows businesses to manage the maturity of fruits sold inside and outside of Brazil. The same solution, which integrates chemical nanotechnology and tracking via QR codes, meets the requirements formulated by the  Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (Anvisa, the Brazilian counterpart to the United States' FDA) to track and locate food products. During an emergency, for example, this would enable the quick removal of contaminated items from supermarket shelves.

All of these solutions involving RFID or QR codes were formulated with the aim of guaranteeing a degree of authenticity and security that had been sought for many years. This enables companies to improve processes, reduce production and distribution costs, value products properly by their quality, guarantee food security and sustainability, and achieve other benefits.

Edson Perin is the editor of  IoP Journal Brasil and the founder of  Netpress Editora.