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An RFID Initiative Fosters a New Brazilian Industry

After a successful pilot, the long-established livestock industry considers tracking cattle with homegrown RFID tags.
By Jennifer Zaino
Dec 05, 2011—Brazil has one of the largest cattle herds in the world—approximately 200 million heads—and exports roughly 2 billion Brazilian Real ($1.3 billion) worth of beef annually. The electronics industry in Brazil, on the other hand, represents only 1.9 percent of the country's gross domestic product. But that may be about to change.

Earlier this year, Brazilian public company CEITEC S.A. (Centre of Excellence in Advanced Electronic Technology) reported that its homegrown RFID chip—known as the Chip do Boi (Chip of Beef), or Chip Ox—successfully completed a 12-month field trial conducted by the nation's Ministry of Science and Technology. The trial involved tracking 2,500 cows at farms in the states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Minas Gerais, using earring tags embedded with the RFID chip.

After a successful pilot, Brazil's livestock industry is considering tracking cattle.

That was good news—both for Brazilian cattle farmers and the country's emerging semiconductor industry. Currently, farmers in Brazil must identify their cattle, but there is no obligation that they use RFID to do so, says Marcelo Lubaszewski, CEITEC's superintendent of design and institutional relations. However, he adds, the government strongly recommends RFID as an efficient way to support customer requirements. "The reason for RFID is for safety, for quality of the meat and for exportation," he states. "Customers, in general, want to know everything about what they are buying, and the best way to follow the history of cattle is by some kind of electronic means."

Modernizing the economy has been a focus for the nation since the early 2000s. "The government decided it was really important to encourage the development of this [semiconductor] industry in Brazil," Lubaszewski says. The Chip do Boi is the first integrated circuit (IC) developed and manufactured entirely in Brazil. What's more, he adds, CEITEC's manufacturing facility is the first native IC plant in Latin America.

Currently, farmers in Brazil must identify their cattle, though they are not obligated to use RFID to do so.

Monitoring cattle with the Chip do Boi promises to help the livestock industry become more efficient in its efforts to compete on the global market—European countries only import beef that is traceable—and jumpstart the country's semiconductor ambitions. "The main challenge for us, looking at the product right now, is to build this market," Lubaszewski says. Other countries with significant beef industries have already been moving ahead; Uruguay, for example, launched a program in 2006 to require that all of its 12 million cattle be tracked with RFID tags. Australia and Canada have similar mandates.
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