First, there was the “connected cow,” a term used by Fujitsu to describe its cattle breeding support service that leverages the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and the cloud to monitor female cow behavior. The goal is to understand when the animal is ready to breed, thereby increasing the cow population for meat and dairy farmers.
Now, there’s the “secure swine,” a term that I just made up to describe a new use of microtags to authenticate livestock during meat packaging.
As Automation World reported late last year in the feature story Taking a Bite Out of Crime, TruTag Technologies offers “edible memory” in the form of tiny microscopic particles made of silicon dioxide, also called silica. Silica is a compound that is edible and resistant to high temperatures. In a pharmaceutical plant, the company’s microtags could be etched onto the individual pill as an optical signature that can be mixed into a coating or polymer. That means not just every bottle, but every pill can be tagged with authentication technology as an anti-counterfeiting measure across the supply chain.
Now, in a real world example of an edible barcode for food, TruTag has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a strategic partnership with Hongyang Biotechnology Co., Ltd, an animal health management and farm management provider in the livestock sector in China.
In this latest development, the partnership will seek to implement TruTag’s security platform across Hongyang’s growing livestock portfolio of 1,500 farms throughout China. The cooperation will initially target the pig industry with the potential to expand into other livestock categories. Areas of specific focus will include the direct marking and authentication of livestock and meat packaging.
This is a unique opportunity to safeguard the pig supply chain with advanced security technology, business intelligence and the ability to take corrective action to enforce authenticity. More importantly, this will protect consumers.
Just a few years ago, The New York Times reported that China’s Ministry of Public Security announced that the police had caught a gang of traders in eastern China who bought rat, fox and mink and sold it as mutton. It’s an international problem. Just last year, Fortune magazine reported that INTERPOL seized about 11,000 tons of counterfeit food as part of a joint effort with Europol, seizing monkey meat, illegal beef, buffalo meat, tilapia “unfit for human consumption,” sugar contaminated with fertilizer, as well as fake alcohol.
Here in the U.S., where manufacturers are under pressure to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act, this technology could help secure the supply chain from farm-to-fork—for any form of meat, fruit or vegetables.
TruTag officials were unavailable to comment on whether this technology will penetrate the U.S. market in the near future, but in a statement TruTag CEO Michael Bartholomeusz commented on the recent news: “We are thrilled to have formed this partnership with Hongyang,” he said. “By combining TruTag’s products with Hongyang’s deep sectoral expertise, together we can offer a holistic solution that provides best in class supply chain security.”