Hawaii Agencies Launch Food Safety Program

The State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the Hawaii Farm Bureau have partnered for a three-year pilot RFID program designed to promote food safety by enabling product visibility throughout the supply chain. The Hawaii Produce Traceability initiative uses RFID technology to track fresh produce down to the farm, or even field, level.

The initiative, the first of its kind in the U.S., offers a win-win situation for consumers and participating growers. When a food safety issue arises, product recalls can be enacted within an hour. With traceability down to the field level, growers can localize the impact of a recall to the relevant area, minimizing losses.


Beyond improving food safety, growers, who can participate by either slap-and-ship tagging or usage of a hand-held RFID system, can reap a bounty of other benefits from the program. Gathered data can be used to optimize harvest productivity, strengthen food processing controls, increase cold chain visibility, reduce produce dwell time on shipping and receiving docks, accelerate transportation times between trading partners and improve inventory turns; all this can help increase profit margins in a competitive industry.

Lowry Computer Products developed the first phase of the system, which includes hardware from Motorola and Symbol Technologies, software from Globe Ranger, and UPM Raflatac RFID inlays paired with waterproof labels. Lowry’s own Fresh Harvest tracking solution unifies these components, providing real-time supply chain data including when boxed produce is planted and harvested, what pesticides are used, and when and where RFID-tagged boxes are scanned. All this information is automatically uploaded into a database accessible to both program participants and, via the initiative’s web portal, the general public.

State officials are now planning for the next two phases of the initiative. Enhancements may include RFID-enabled cellphones to enable more farms to participate, and implementing produce temperature tracking to reduce the threat of food spoilage. The program may eventually be expand to cover 5,000 Hawaiian farms.

Funding for the pilot program was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Economic Development Alliance of Hawaii, the Federal State Marketing Improvement Program, and the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation.

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