NONTHABURI, Thailand, /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- IBM (NYSE:IBM) and FXA Group announced a strategic collaboration with Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) and the Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT)—one of the country's leading communications solution providers—to enable farmers, exporters and retailers to improve global food safety by making Thailand's agricultural products traceable from farms to store shelves.
Thailand is one of the world's largest producers and exporters of agricultural products. In 2009, the country earned revenue of approximately $17.3 billion from food and livestock exports. In addition, the country is the world's fourth largest exporter of frozen chicken.
With a global food supply chain that crosses international borders, consumers lack a source of reliable information about the conditions their food was grown and shipped under. In the wake of well-publicized outbreaks of illnesses traced to food, costing $152 billion a year in U.S. alone with more than 76 million food-related illnesses and 5,000 deaths a year, governments around the world are proposing more stringent regulations to better protect consumers from food borne illnesses.
Today, Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture is launching an initiative that will use smart sensor technology and traceability software from IBM and IBM business partner, FXA, to enable all participants in the food supply chain—farmers, distributors and retailers, to access critical information on agricultural exports including the farm of origin, date of harvest, temperature during shipping, and more. This will enable the country to help ensure the freshness of food exported from Thailand upon its arrival in global markets and in turn, create a safer food supply chain for consumers.
To start off the project, the Ministry of Agriculture will work closely with IBM and FXA to help approximately 600 food producers and exporters of chicken, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables begin using IBM and FXA's traceability solutions on all their exports.
Connecting the Dots with Smart Sensors to Create a Safer Food Supply Chain
Using food traceability technology that has been put in place by IBM business partner, FXA, Thailand's agricultural producers can collect all relevant information about each batch of food produced in the country. Now, with IBM's sensor and traceability software, Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is expanding on the system FXA provides by adding a layer of open technology that enables growers and producers to use unique serial numbers stored on sensors or barcodes and share important product information beyond their four walls. Using IBM's software, all the critical information captured on each food product can be securely accessed by all trading partners within the food supply chain that need it. IBM technology adheres to GS1 EPCglobal's EPCIS standard for information sharing, which means that any trading partner using an EPCIS-compliant system can use the system and access all key information on the product.
With this project, Thailand becomes the first country in the world to adopt the EPCIS standard for food traceability. This is a significant step in ensuring the safety of consumers around the globe, because there is no quick or easy way for retailers and governments to determine where a contaminated product came from. As a result of the use of IBM's technology, if a consumer gets sick, retailers and authorities can immediately pinpoint the exact farm on which the tainted food was grown and quickly arrange a targeted recall to minimize the number of people affected. According to the United Nations, $48 billion of food is thrown away every year in the U.S. alone by retailers or consumers. With the ability to conduct more targeted recalls this number could be reduced by retailers who would no longer have to throw good food away.
"As one of the world's largest producers and exporters of agricultural products, we must continue to improve our food safety standards to meet, or even exceed the global market's requirement," said Mr. Theera Wongsamut, Thailand's Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives. "We are very much interested in using smart solutions that will provide our agricultural exporters the ability to ensure that every process involving their products is transparent for importers and consumers alike. We are strongly confident that the system will enhance and increase our exporters' competitiveness in the international food industry," he said.
Using effective food traceability technology, Thailand's agricultural producers can collect all relevant information about each batch of agricultural and meat products produced in the country, including which farm it came from, where it was processed and its current location and temperature.
The solution FXA and IBM are deploying includes FXA's OpsSmart food safety solution and IBM's InfoSphere Traceability Server software. Both companies' technologies can be used with a wide range data capture technologies such as linear barcodes, 2-D barcodes and RFID systems.
"IBM's technologies will help drive efficiency and competitiveness for Thailand's food exporters," said Mr. Thanwa Laohasiriwong, Country General Manager, IBM Thailand Co., Ltd. "Together with FXA, we will draw on our advanced technology and global expertise to make Thailand's food exports system work smarter and to reinforce the country's status as the 'world's kitchen.'"
About FXA Group
FXA Group is a leading provider of enterprise traceability solutions across multiple segments of the food industry. This creates significant value for each business partner in the food supply chain, by increasing revenues through differentiating products, gaining easier market access and creating operational efficiencies.
About IBM Smart Food
IBM is providing businesses and governments with the technology and expertise needed to create a smarter, safer food supply for consumers around the world. The company's researchers, consultants, and software developers have already built food traceability systems for customers in Canada, Germany, Norway and Vietnam.