UTAS associate Professor Jiangang Fei knows that counterfeiters in Asia put a lot of money into making packaging that looked identical to Tasmanian packaging, as the revenues will make it worth their while.
Now, he has received a $455,000 grant that will fund his team to find a solution that customers could use to trace where the cherries came from, with all the steps along the way to the sale point. It would later be adapted and extended to all types of state produce.
The cloud-based system is likely to use tiny sensors which could record data like when and where the cherries were packaged, the variety, compliance, food safety, temperature and so forth.
Associate Professor Fei said consumers would pay a very high price for Tasmanian produce, especially cherries, and they needed to know they were getting the genuine product.
Examiner.com.au quoted him as saying: "Consumers cannot tell which is real and which is fake. More importantly to Tasmania growers, it is a replication issue. If people buy something they believe is from Tasmania but it is from South America, the quality will be different. So the consumer will think this is not very good quality and I paid $200 so I won't get it again. If the reputation is damaged, it is not just to a single product, it is to the wider range of products from Tasmania."
He said a new system was needed because current technologies like QR codes and bar codes could be easily printed. The tracing system would also increase safety.
Fruit Growers Tasmania CEO Peter Cornish said the project was very important to stop people undermining the name and quality of Tasmanian fruit.
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