First, paddock to plate became valuable for meat marketing and sales. Now paddock to store may soon be a real thing for wool sellers.
- New wool packs with a QR code and microchip link contents back to the farm of origin
- The technology is designed protect the wool’s integrity along the supply chain
- Developers hope it will do away with the current paper system that could become detached from shipments
A batch of Tasmanian wool is being shipped in specially designed wool packs with QR codes and microchips designed to link them right back to the paddock.
The new system allows growers to tag each individual bale with “place of origin” and quality information, including the type of wool, quality test results and farm of origin.
In the past, the information has been handwritten on paperwork, which could be lost, incorrectly written or damaged during transit.
Now, the information can be accessed within seconds by scanning the QR code on the bale with a smartphone app.
The Australian wool exchange (AWEX) has been working on the concept for a decade, and CEO Mark Grave was in Tasmania to observe its first commercial use.
“Essentially, what the RFID and QR code have is a unique number for each particular wool pack, which will follow it through the supply chain,” Mr Grave said.
“Buyers will be able to trace the product back to the farm, but, equally, the grower will be able to trace their product through the supply chain to see where it goes.
“Those systems still have to be developed, but this technology is the foundation it will all be built upon.”
The wool in the bales belongs to Northern Midlands farmer Simon Cameron, who produces superfine wool on his farm, “Kingston”.
He said such technology was long overdue.
“As big as the wool industry is, the foundation document — the document which records the wool leaving the farm — in the vast majority of cases is still handwritten. Can you believe that?” Mr Cameron said.
“While it may not be producing much of a benefit on the farm, it’s a benefit for everything that happens after the farm, all the way through to the mills that process our wool.
“That, in fact, will make our industry more competitive by modernising it, and that will, in time, benefit wool growers.
“Let’s get away from the paper. Let’s eliminate many of the errors that will take costs out of the supply chain, and let’s use the e-bale for the benefit of our customers.”
Ahead of the curve
AWEX CEO Mark Grave anticipates the technology will quickly spread to other wool-producing nations.
“Certainly, the interest that we are getting from overseas through Europe and China is that they want this to be introduced to create better efficiencies,” he said.
“The opportunity here is to capture something that the rest of the world actually hasn’t got. We’ve got very good infrastructure here in Australia, and we need to capitalise on that for the industry’s sake.
“It’s important because Australia is an important part of the wool supply chain and industry, not only here but overseas.”
The new packs have hit the commercial market as wool prices soar. Superfine fleeces such as Mr Cameron’s, at 17 micron, are fetching 2,606 cents per/kg, which equates to more than $3,000 for a 120kg bale.
More broad wool is fetching $1,500 a bale
Mr Grave said the technology should reduce the risk of fraud.
“Integrity of product, particularly agricultural products, is always the critical part of our industry,” he said.
“It’s what creates the confidence and trust that the industry or processors have in the wool that we supply.”