By Claire Swedberg
April 2, 2207—Chilean avocado producer Rio
is using radio frequency identification
to track the temperature and cold chain of its product as it
travels by ocean vessel 6,000 miles from the
company's farms in central Chile to the United
States. Since the conclusion of a three-week pilot
in October 2006, the system has allowed Rio Blanco
to respond more quickly any time its avocados have
measured as being too warm at any of the read
points throughout transport.
Chile's fourth largest fruit exporter, is using
technology provided by Evidencia Data Logger
and manufactured by Evidencia
affiliate Information Mediary Corporation
(IMC) to ensure temperature monitoring. The system
consists of 13.56 MHz tags compliant with ISO
Standard 15693. The tags are named "paltags,"
after the Chilean word "palta" for avocado. Rio
Blanco and third-party quality assurance officers
at the port in Chile, as well as in Long Beach,
Calif., use IMC handheld readers to interrogate
the tags and determine if the products have been
exposed to temperatures outside acceptable limits.
Evidencia also provides Web-based software
allowing Rio Blanco to monitor its avocados' cold
throughout the supply chain.
pilot began in the Serena Valley, in northern
Chile, where avocados are grown. Here, 20 avocados
were individually wrapped with RFID tags connected
to temperature loggers while still on the tree.
Within hours of being picked, they were loaded
into bins and sent to a cooling area to bring
their temperature to between 39 and 45 degrees.
The bins were also tagged with Evidencia Log-ic
ThermAssureRF semi-passive temperature loggers.
The avocados and their tags then went
through the rigorous process of being sorted,
washed and waxed. After the avocados were packed
into cartons for transport, a "master pallet" was
tagged with the same temperature logger, and that
pallet was linked with data for a number of other
pallets traveling by the same vehicles.
When trucks arrived at the Chilean harbor
in Valparaiso, 500 miles from where the avocados
were picked, quality control officers for Rio
Blanco checked temperature reads with handheld
RFID readers. Had the temperature risen above
permissible travel temperatures at any point along
the way, an alert would have been sent to Rio
Blanco management, and, if appropriate, the
pallets would have been returned to cold storage
to bring the temperature back to an acceptable
level before any damage resulted.
avocados were then loaded onto ships, says Alex
Salomon, a general partner at Evidencia. When the
ships arrived in Long Beach, the system read the
master pallet tag again before shipping the
avocados to Green Giant
's fruit subsidiary,
Echo Farms. In the pilot, Salomon says, 100
percent of the tags were read. The pilot included
individually wrapped RFID loggers on pieces of
fruit, to test the durability of the loggers. Now,
shipments only include tagging of the pallets and
"We had already done pilots
from Chile to the port," Salomon notes, though no
RFID temperature loggers had ever been tested from
Chile to Los Angeles, which would have required
three weeks at sea. Now, he adds, the company is
offering similar systems to Del
, Chiquita Chile
and Sunview Marketing International