Fair Tracing; new branding and tech transfer possibilities?

Fair Tracing Project Blog
This was a project I heard about whilst listening to a podcast this morning.  It’s called “Fair Tracing” — a research project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in the UK.  And, as the play on words suggests, the idea is linked to the Fair Trade model of trade.

 The aim of the project is to:

“help bridge the digital divide between Northern consumers and Southern producers by using tracing technology to enhance the Fair Trade model of trade”

It’s not hard to imagine a number of possible benefits if applied to an agricultural development context.  This kind of branding could be used to provide assurances on the quality of seed for example.  Or as a channel for technology transfer by providing latest updates about inputs, storage, pests etc.  Market prices could even be added, as the data can be amended at any time.  And this is an aside to its intended use to support Fair Trade which is a quickly growing consumer category.

How does the system work?  Using digital tracing technology that, according to the blog enables an individual product to be:

“given a unique identity and tracked throughout the value chain from producer to consumer. The information that may be attached to such a “tagged” product is virtually limitless, beginning with details of the product’s date and cost of creation, as well as its individual creator and his/her working environment and pay, through the various steps of its transport to the eventual point-of-sale to the consumer. At each stage of the product’s journey, information may be added and/or edited and, if the information is stored digitally on the internet, may be of various multimedia types. The ability to access this rich information at the point-of-sale will empower the consumer to make an informed comparison between competing products before finalising his/her purchase.”

So far precise details have not been determined, and case studies are to be conducted to determine what form the data, storage and retrieval could take. Their blog includes publications related to the project.

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3 responses to “Fair Tracing; new branding and tech transfer possibilities?

  1. ‘Fair Tracing’ would definitely open new branding opportunities for all stake holders in the value chain. The success story of ‘GrapeNet’ in India is worth quoting here to substantiate the benefits that will arise out of deploying tracing tools in procurement process. The traceability concept has helped 40, 000 farmers across India not only in increasing their farm incomes but also in adopting uniform agricultural practices. From consumer’s end, such an opportunity to trace the origins of the product will eliminate ‘information asymmetry’ prevailing in the market place there by helping to build consumer confidence and brand loyalty. I thank the blogger for posting this informative article about the developments taking place on the traceability front.

  2. Guat Hong Teh

    Interesting! Can we also think of this methodology/tool as a way in which all actors in the supply chain are attributed for what they have “put into” the final product? And also as an educational tool for consumers about various aspects of our food/products –seeing what went into creating the rice we eat, the shampoo we use, or our medicine derived from plants etc.

    I have a question about cost though. Will this kind of tracing system be too expensive to implement? What are the challenges? I wonder if Hari Mohan knows how much it costs to implement GrapeNet in India?

  3. Quantifying & attributing the ‘value add’ at each level in the supply chain can improve the bargaining power of ‘sellers’ too. I doubt, whether tracing tools can find applications of use when it comes to products which result from tertiary processing like jam, bread and shampoo of course. If such a possibility exists, then it’s going to be an excellent decision support tool for consumers.

    Regarding the cost to implement a tracing system like GrapeNet, the government of India spent around 9 million euros over a period of 5 years (2003-2008) covering more than 40,000 grape growers. This cost includes setting up of a dedicated laboratory at National Research Center for Grapes (Pune, India) along side implementing GrapeNet. The costs involved are somewhat high. However, the benefits of having such a system in place will always outweigh the costs in terms of increased export volumes and better prices for the produce.

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