RFID has shown itself to be a reliable and efficient way of tracking assets in all types of industries. Now, with the concern over food safety, RFID is finding its way into a variety of farming applications as well.
One application for RFID that is very interesting is in cattle management. Back in December 2007, the USDA established a plan to have 70% of all cattle in the U.S. be part of the National Animal Identification Systems (NAIS) program by the end of 2009. The goal of the program is to enable tracking of an animal’s history to its point of origin within 48 hours. With the data available through tracking, important information can be accessed by animal health officials and producers in case of a disease outbreak. Participation in this program is voluntary, and the NAIS program does not require participants to use RFID technology. However, since many are anticipating legislation mandating animal identification systems, many farms are using RFID to track cattle and are realizing the benefits of this technology.
A great example of RFID use in cattle management is at Costa View Farms in CA. They began using RFID about four years ago when the U.S. Department of Agriculture started investigating the technology to monitor poultry and livestock to trace animal diseases to the source. Costa View Farms went from a paper-based system that required workers to read numbers printed on the animal’s ear tags to passive RFID transponders encoded with unique ID numbers. The RFID system has saved the farm’s workers countless hours that used to be spent searching for and treating cows, while also improving its animal records and even boosting milk production.
Using RFID to identify and track livestock is one of the fastest growing, and largest, RFID sectors to date, according to British research and analysis firm IDTechEx. The firm expects worldwide sales of RFID tags to rise from $233 million in 2007 to $2.93 billion in 2017, with livestock and food applications accounting for 90 percent of that total.
Another farm seeing RFID benefits is d’Vineripe, an Australian Tomato grower. In their application, RFID is used as a management tool to analyze workflow and worker productivity. Last year they began replacing their paper-based system of tracking worker tasks with an RFID based system of data collection. Since then, they have been able to effectively collect and analyze data that helps them find efficiencies in their processes and identify and retrain under performing workers.
With RFID technology, tracking the food source back to the farm offers benefits to the farmer and to the consumer. The consumer is assured that outbreaks of salmonella or E Coli can be tracked back to the source and the contaminated products removed from market shelves. As a management tool, RFID allows farms to become more efficient in their processes or training.