Smart supply chain next step for high value horticulture

Northern Australia horticulture smart supply chain research


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Queensland and NT mango producer Manbulloo's packing facility.

Queensland and NT mango producer Manbulloo's packing facility.

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Northern Australia blockchain technology trial opens export potential

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An industry-led horticulture initiative in northern Australia is aiming to get more high value produce into domestic and international markets.

Farmers in northern Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are a long way from their customers and supply chains, which presents a big challenge to the quality and assurance and market value of their produce.

That problem is the focus of a collaboration between Manbulloo - Australia’s largest producer of the Kensington Pride mango variety, South Australian agtech provider T-Provenance, horticulture representative Growcom and the the Co-operative Research Centre for Northern Australia.

They are developing a smart supply chain solution to track deliveries and improve quality assurance and have secured $830,000 in funding to develop the technology.

Smart chips will be placed with produce in transit to measure and store temperature data through the cold supply chain, and issue and alert if the optimum range is exceeded.

An Internet of Things may be used to deliver the data into a blockchain. IoT uses radio frequency and can carry small amounts of data over greater distances than mobile networks.

Blockchain which is a synchronised online ledger that can be made visible to parties along the supply chain. It uses encryption technology to create a secure communication tool that can be updated at any point in the chain to record financial transactions, quality control, customs checks and so on.

Blockchain can prevent financial fraud as well as verify the provenance of produce, by securly recording a cargoes details at the point of departure and guaranteeing its movement through the supply chain - removing the possibility of fake goods.

That’s why northern horticulture is so excited by its new smart supply chain potential, for domestic and export markets.

The new system could prevent spoilage, reduce waste and help producers earn top dollar by demonstrating the provenance of premium crops.

They system will be trialled initially on Manbulloo’s mangoes, which are supplied from Queensland’s Burdekin and the Northern Territory’s Katherine regions into southern markets.

T-Provenance chief technology officer Jackson Virgo said growers would be able to get their produced pre-approved the basis of tamper-proof blockchain measurements.

“This data can greatly the elevate the provability of quality assurance claims and improve transparency at the farm gate, allowing us to unlock more international markets for northern Australian fruit growers,” Mr Virgo said.

Manbulloo chief executive Marie Piccone said the smart supply chain was ane exciting opportunity.

“T-Provenance has the potential to revolutionise the mango supply chain and deliver benefits for growers,” Ms Piccone said.

Manbulloo shipped their first consignment of mangoes into the strictly-controlled South Korean market from Townsville Port in December last year.

This export opportunity exemplifies the wealth of opportunities for Australian produce in South East Asia, where perceptions can be skewed the lure of the biggest markets in Japan and China.

Australia Korea Business Council director Liz Johnston said South Korea, which already imports a lot of Australian coal, iron ore and beef, is our third-largest trading partner.

South Korea has a growing economy that is already larger than Australia’s but it imports around 70 per cent of its food.

Ms Jonston said the country's 50 million consumers are increasingly discerning shoppers with a growing taste for premium produce with high ethical and values.

“We see agriculture as a huge opportunity for Australia,” Ms Johnston said.

“Our relationship with Korea has been dominated by natural resources, while food and agriculture always played a role.

“But we now consider agriculture as front and centre in our opportunities in Korea.”

The Smart Supply Chains project will run over the next two years. The CRC for Northern Australia provided $300,000 and with contributions from industry the total project value is $830,000.

The CRC estimated successful adoption of the new technology could save the mango industry 10pc of its overall value, or $14 million a year.

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