CLOSING THE LOOP ON FOOD TRACEABILITY: Amvac’s workshop at AG 4.0

By Maria Onofrio

Tue, 25 Sep 2018

Now, more than ever, the demand for information about food supply is forming an important aspect of consumer behaviour. While specific events, such as the OSI Group meat scandal in the U.S., and the horsemeat controversy in Europe have shone a spotlight on this industry, this trend has been growing for many years.

Demand for labelling the GMO status of foods is further reflective of this desire to understand more about what we consume, where it comes from, and how it is made.

Furthermore, food safety and security take on huge importance when problems occur, as failure to act quickly puts lives at risk, as well as the survival of industries, companies and employees.

As a result, there is an ever-increasing need to implement effective food traceability technology and software into existing precision agriculture operations that can ensure the safety of all stakeholders, from consumer to farmer.

Traditional Methods in Food Traceability

In light of these pressures, it is up to those in the industry to create solutions. Thankfully, we have methods for tracking the supply chain of food that go back to the 1970s. This allowed us to be protected from the worst excesses of food safety hazards.

This system can be informed through a number of ways. We allow the farmer to log the data manually, keeping track of which inputs are used in the field, how they are processed and transported along the supply chain.

Alternatively, technological advances in recent years have opened up the use of barcodes in traceability. Bar code scanning records information about a product in less than a second, and dramatically increase the accuracy of data recording compared to more traditional methods that require the farmer to record the information at the point of activity and then log this information into a computer system. This provides additional stages where the recording could be done incorrectly.

However, these methods are becoming increasingly redundant. Ambitious companies are utilising a technology that, while long-established, is only now being harnessed and exploited to cope with the demands of food traceability.

Challenge Advisory has partnered with Amvac Chemical Company to learn from the best about traceability. Not only will they be on panel discussion but also presenting their exclusive workshop

Presentation Title:  CLOSING THE LOOP ON FOOD TRACEABILITY

Abstract:  Precision application is a need for farmers around the world. With safety, stewardship and accuracy as key drivers, Rick Rice will discuss the R&D and development process of two new technology platforms from American Vanguard Corporation:  SIMPAS™, a self-contained, closed-delivery prescriptive application system which ensures the Right product is applied at the Right Rate and the Right Time to the Right Place in each field, and ULTIMUS™, the traceability system that works with SIMPAS to provide forensic quality chain-of-custody traceability for every SIMPAS-applied product, from container filling, through the distribution channel, and throughout the application process.

  • What’s the value in knowing where your food comes from, if you’re not sure what was used to produce it?
  • What means are used to record and verify products used in the production of traceable food products?
  • What’s the incentive for farmers to maintain automated and verifiable product application records?
  • How do we create a win-win scenario for farmers, consumers, processors, and society?

Presentation Summary:

Because our technology provides forensic quality traceability of all the pesticide containers used to treat an agricultural production field, we ask and address the question of “Why do you want to know where your food was grown if you can’t know what products were applied to the field while the food was being grown?”.   Current regulations for pesticide application record-keeping are essentially dependent on a farmer’s veracity and accuracy when it comes to establishing a record of when products were applied to field and at what rate they were applied.  Many records are hand-written notes in a spiral bound notebook, with no way whatsoever to actually verify that the farmer’s note conform to what was actually applied.

AMVAC’s SIMPAS/Ultimus technology platform, via the use of RFID-tagged SmartCartridge product containers, automates the process of producing as-applied records.  Our application equipment software reads product information from an RFID tag on individual product containers and auto-enters that information into the as-applied record-keeping software.  This eliminates the requirement, or the option, for a farmer to hand-enter information regarding product type, rate applied, field location, etc.  Each RFID-tagged SmartCartridge container works with our proprietary software to create an electronic chain of custody that follows and records the whereabouts of each container, from the time it’s filled with product, as it moves through the distribution channel, as title transfers to the farmer, as it’s used to apply product within a field or fields, and as it makes its way back to the retailer in order to be refilled and reused.  SIMPAS/Ultimus technology closes the loop on food product traceability by providing confident answers regarding what products were applied to the fields in which “traceable” food was grown.

Because SIMPAS application equipment is designed to apply products prescriptively, applying the lowest efficacious dose to only the places that were pre-determined to warrant treatment, our technology not only identifies which fields were treated with a particular product, but it auto-creates a time-stamped, geo-tagged record that shows precisely where within a field, each product was applied.  It’s the ultimate in transparent record-keeping with regard to understanding what product was used when, where, and at what rate.

We’ve worked hard to make all of the above happen as easily as possible for the farmer.  Essentially, once the application prescription is plugged into the system (and that will usually be provided by the farmer’s trusted agronomic advisor), the farmer installs the proper SmartCartridge containers on his SIMPAS equipment, and the software will do the rest.  The farmer drives the tractor while planting, without regard to the presence of SIMPAS equipment and the SmartCartridge product containers, and our software will control where the products are applied throughout the field, in a manner that’s consistent with how an inkjet printer uses software to determine where to apply ink on a page.  Just as your computer will let you know when an ink cartridge is getting low, our system enables farmers to monitor the status of individual SmartCartridge containers, but in order to make it as easy and as efficient for the operator, rather than having to stop and replace individual cartridges as they run empty, we allow ALL the cartridges to be removed and replaced at once when the planter stops to refill with seed.  Partially filled containers are returned to the original place of purchase, where the farmer receives full credit for all of the unused product which remains in the SmartCartridge container.  It’s just that simple.

Speaker: Rick Rice, Director, Application Technology, AMVAC Chemical Company

Rick is the Director, Application Technology for AMVAC Chemical Corporation and he directs the SIMPAS and ULTIMUS development teams.  By utilizing prescriptions to precisely apply fungicides, insecticides, micronutrients and nematicides, only to geo-specific areas of need, SIMPAS will enable maximum agronomic performance with minimum environmental exposure.  ULTIMUS makes it simple and easy for farmers to downstream purchasers of SIMPAS-treated crops, with auto-created electronic as-applied records that are independent of farmer inputs to record the date, rate, time, and location of products applied to a field where food traceability is important.

In addition to being a named inventor on a number of application technology patents for AMVAC, prior to joining AMVAC, Rick gained extensive experience in the seed, chemical, and traits business with Monsanto, Delta & Pine Land, AgrEvo, and AgraCetus.  He also has expertise in the area of spatial crop yield data analysis from working as technology director for AgVeritas during a joint assignment with Plant Health Care, plc and XS, Inc.


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Maria Onofrio

monofrio@challenge.org

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