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Vietnamese Seafood Producers Look to RFID

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers is working with IBM to provide a system that can track products from farm to point of sale.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
May 15, 2009In an effort to improve the traceability of seafood exported to retailers in the United States, Europe and Japan, the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) is working with IBM and other technology vendors to provide advanced technologies, including radio frequency identification, to the association's member seafood producers. Such technologies would enable the creation of detailed records regarding the origin and movement of seafood products from farm to point of sale to consumers.

Paul Chang, IBM's worldwide lead of business strategy for emerging technologies, says the first deployments are set to begin in late June or early July 2009—though VASEP has yet to choose the seafood producers that will participate in the pilots. (VASEP did not respond to RFID Journal's requests for additional information.) To determine which producers will participate, the association is focusing on those that ship seafood to large U.S. and European retailers with RFID systems already in place.

IBM's Paul Chang
The technology that suppliers use to begin tracking seafood at its source could be linear bar codes, 2-D bar codes or RFID—such a decision will not be made, Chang says, until the producers have been selected and the pilots have begun. However, he notes, IBM is encouraging the use of RFID technology because it offers advantages over bar codes, from which data is collected using a line-of-sight bar-code scanner. RFID tags, on the other hand, can be read without a direct line of sight, because the information is carried on a radio frequency signal.

Regardless of which auto-ID technology the producers employ, all data used to track and trace the food from the point of collection to the retail shelf will be stored on software complying with EPCglobal's Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) standard. This standard was developed to allow various supply chain partners to capture and share information utilizing common data formats and protocols (see EPCglobal Ratifies EPCIS Standard). IBM uses the standard for its InfoSphere Traceability Server software, which serves as a data repository, enabling trading partners to track products as they move through the global supply chain.

FXA Group, a Bangkok-based provider of food-traceability software known as OpsSmart, will work directly with the producers to begin tracking products by helping them obtain serialized Global Trade Identification Numbers (GTINs). IBM will then collect these numbers—along with data from the FXA software indicating where the seafood was acquired, as well as when and by whom—then store this information on the InfoSphere Traceability Server software. In this way, shippers and retailers involved in the project will be able to document the supply chain, adding new data pertaining to each seafood shipment they receive, process or forward, until the products are placed on store shelves.

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