Bridging the Gaps in Traceability Systems for Fresh Produce Supply Chains: Overview and Development of an Integrated IoT-Based System
1.1. General Context of Traceability for Agri-Food Supply Chains
“Food traceability is an ability to access specific information about a food product that has been captured and integrated with the product’s recorded identification throughout the supply chain”
1.2. Incorporating Internet of Things to Optimize Agricultural Traceability Systems
1.3. Related Work
1.4. Aim of the Present Study
2. Conceptual Framework of AgroTRACE
- Global Location Number (GLN): Distinction among the locations of farms, packaging units, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, etc.
- Global Trade Item Number (GTIN): Identifying trade items by providing a single number for each product.
- Electronic Product Code (EPC): Providing serial numbers for the commercial item.
- Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC): Providing containers’ serial codes for the pallets.
- Global Returnable Asset Identifier (GRAI): Distinction of the returned produce.
- At retail stores, the EAN/UPC barcodes are implemented for scanning.
- In the interest of identifying the product’s units on the pallets and packaging for monitoring products’ movement and acquiring information about them across the supply chain, the GS1-128 barcodes are employed.
- GS1 DataBar barcodes are also used, which can provide the same or more information and in less space comparing to UPC barcodes.
- UPC barcodes are used for small-sized products and for products that are difficult to track.
- RFID tags are used which are connected with the products’ EPC.
- The data, which are coded in data carriers of the GS1 system, are able to identify the products and enable trading partners to share a great amount of data including the number of batch, the date of production and packaging information, to mention but a few.
- Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN): It links the trading partners with GS1 Global Registry through GS1 certified data. This provides the capability of instant electronic exchange of updated, standardized and verified information. Furthermore, the useful information can be shared pertaining to GTINs; unique identity for the owner’s product, description of the product, and classification of the product in terms of Global Product Classification (GPC).
- Electronic Data Interchange (EDI): It enables the exchange of important documents between enterprises via a standard format. It can also allow for sharing information including GTIN, GLN and SSCC, which were briefly described above, as well as invoicing, delivery information, order details and payment tracking.
- Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS): It is the standard for the information exchanging dealing with critical events about the monitoring of the route of a product taking place along the agri-food supply chain. It also shares information such as the date, time and location in the action stream of the event of interest, GTIN and GLN.
3. The AgroTRACE Infrastructure
3.1. Event Capturing and IoT Application Platform
3.1.1. Event Capturing Applications
- Monitoring the route from the field to the packaging plant (see also Figure 2). During harvest, the numbers of the perishable products, i.e., vegetables and fruits, are scanned via the GRAI application and imprinted in barcodes or QR codes on pallets. The same batch numbers are scanned during entering the packaging plant and, in particular, at the sorting line and at the temporary storage point. These numbers are linked to the corresponding field’s and packing GLN numbers as well as through the sorting line systems by using the GTIN numbers of the available products and SSCC numbers of the pallets. Concerning the former, the extended form, namely GTIN-128, is used which contains information of different batches.
- Management purposes in the retail point. The customer is able to scan the number of the fresh product by using the GTIN-128 application. The numbers are imprinted in QR codes or data bars, thus allowing for access to its history. Thus, the product can be tracked after the shelf of store, until the refrigerator of the consumer.
3.1.2. IoT Applications
- From field to the packaging plant: Each pallet leaves from the field having an RFID with an EPC number. In the packaging plant, RFID readers are used to scan each batch at the sorting lines and the temporary storage sites, where the products are pending sorting and packaging. Regarding the EPC numbers, they are linked to new EPC numbers to be assigned to different batches and pallets by using sorting systems.
- In the packaging plant: Each package (at the level of cardboard box or the corresponding reusable packaging item) and each pallet have an RFID tag with EPC number, while the packaging plant has RFID readers at the exits of the products to be sent.
- During transportation: The trucks are equipped with both RFID readers and beacon devices for recording useful data pertaining to humidity, ethylene concentration and temperature, as a means of continuously monitoring the transportation conditions. To this end, the LoRaWAN network is also used for data transmission at the level of city-logistics for enabling prompt response of the supply chain as the fresh commodities approach the retail point.
- In the store: The retail stores are equipped with beacon devices providing useful information to the customer’s smartphone via reading EPC numbers with RFID readers.
- During waste management process: Each partner of the supply chain that produce organic waste has to assure the correspondence of each departing pallet with an EPC number on an RFID tag. Waste treatment points are equipped with RFID readers at the entry points undertaking the continuation of traceability at the by-products’ production level (biofuels, compost, etc.). As an alternative solution, special brown organic waste bins can be installed in accordance with international standards. The brown bins, which will be marked with RFID, are weighed and identified via intelligent waste management systems (Waste Logistics) in garbage trucks. The information waste quantity is also integrated in the AgroTRACE System. For the above applications, the necessary Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have been developed that are connected to the middle-tier of the information management platform. They are also connected to the middle-tier APIs of Google Maps and Google Surveys for evaluating several stages of the supply chain, with the intention of integrating the functions of the applications in the use cases.
3.2. Transaction Support and Information Management System
- A system for physical entity information management, which, via special queries, enables users to access information, thus, fully leveraging the capabilities for data visualization.
- A system for event information management, which allows users to track events that take place at different phases of the supply chain within clearly defined flows by fully exploiting the data visualization capabilities.
- A system for evaluating the performance of the supply chain, by making a comparison between real-time data and targets that have been set (KPIs).
- A system for supporting the transaction among partners across the entire supply chain by taking advantage of data and information.
3.3. Data Mapping System
3.4. Standards Followed by the IoT Applications Focused on Information Management
- Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT): This lightweight standard messaging protocol allows for both recording and publishing of messages with considerably small volume of data, while it is very useful for connections to remote sites with a small code footprint as well as minimal network bandwidth .
- Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP): Based on its abbreviation, going from “P” back to “X”, XMPP is a “Protocol” allowing systems to communicate to each other; “Presence” shows the state of an XMPP entity (online, offline or busy); the “Messaging” refers to the part that clients can see; XMPP is designed so as to be “eXtensible”, namely able to grow and accommodate alterations. In other words, XMPP is a set of open protocols for real-time communication, which supports a variety of applications, including content sharing, instant messaging, voice and video calling, presence and collaboration .
3.5. IoT Communication
- IoT information system supporting data management (cloud), data record and information display.
- Web application and mobile application informing users about the measurements.
- LoRa nodes for recording information and transmit it at the LoRa gate at a distance of up to 20 km.
- Autonomous node systems with solar panels (where required).
- LoRa nodes with sensors in fields and other points of interest, e.g., warehouses and packaging plants.
- LoRa nodes at tractors.
- LoRa nodes for the transported containers.
- LoRa gateway for receiving signals from LoRa nodes and sending them to the information system.
- An IoT platform, through which data are collected and sent to other servers and apps.
4. Discussion and Main Conclusions
Conflicts of Interest
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|IoT System||GS1 Standard||Supply Chain Range||Minimum|
|Data Transfer||Modular Structure||Waste|
|iApp||x||Packaging plant-Retailer||Container||RFID, Satellite, BLE 2||√||x||x|
|AutoSense||x||Packaging plant-Retailer||Container||RFID, GSM 3, NFC 4,||√||x||x|
|AgroTrace||√||Field-Consumer-Field||Product||RFID, LoRaWAN, BLE||√||√||√|
|Supply Chain Part||Parameter Type||Measured Parameter|
|Environment||Greenhouse gas emissions|
|Location||Tractor’s location tracking|
|Transportation and storage||Transportation and storage environment conditions||Ambient temperature|
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Tagarakis, A.C.; Benos, L.; Kateris, D.; Tsotsolas, N.; Bochtis, D. Bridging the Gaps in Traceability Systems for Fresh Produce Supply Chains: Overview and Development of an Integrated IoT-Based System. Appl. Sci. 2021, 11, 7596. https://doi.org/10.3390/app11167596
Tagarakis AC, Benos L, Kateris D, Tsotsolas N, Bochtis D. Bridging the Gaps in Traceability Systems for Fresh Produce Supply Chains: Overview and Development of an Integrated IoT-Based System. Applied Sciences. 2021; 11(16):7596. https://doi.org/10.3390/app11167596Chicago/Turabian Style
Tagarakis, Aristotelis C., Lefteris Benos, Dimitrios Kateris, Nikolaos Tsotsolas, and Dionysis Bochtis. 2021. "Bridging the Gaps in Traceability Systems for Fresh Produce Supply Chains: Overview and Development of an Integrated IoT-Based System" Applied Sciences 11, no. 16: 7596. https://doi.org/10.3390/app11167596