COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The same type of technology that is used to track livestock from the farm to the marketplace is now being used on other commodities, such as fruit and vegetable production.



Growers can learn all about the technology at the Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers Congress, being held Jan. 16-18 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus.



Matt Darr, an Ohio State University precision agriculture technology research associate with the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, will present a seminar on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). He will cover what it is, how it works and how to purchase the technology.



The presentation will be held on Jan. 16 from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., as part of an Emerging Technologies Workshop that will also include information on sprayer technologies, computerized mapping for crop site selection, online specialty crop resources and e-commerce.



"Radio Frequency Identification has been around for about five years, but is now becoming more popular because the technology has been standardized to allow growers, distribution chains and retailers use the same data formats," said Darr. "And larger retailers, like Wal-Mart, are now requiring RFID as an entrance point into their market for some products. So if people want to work with those retailers, they need to know how to use the technology."



RFID technology is made up of tags -- essentially wireless bar codes that store a variety of information about the product -- and radio frequency scanners that read the tags. Through RFID, commodities can be tracked from supplier to distribution to point of sale for the purpose of identification and quality control.



"With RFID, fruits and vegetables, for example, can be tracked to their place of origin, what variety they are and the date they were harvested. RFID technology can also monitor temperatures inside a shipping crate to determine if the product was subjected to extreme hot or cold conditions that may affect its quality."



Darr said that RFID technology could also be used to improve warehouse inventory, as well as reduce out-of-stock sales conditions.



Not only is the technology useful, it is also cost-effective. For example, Darr estimates that if the average cost of RFID technology was $8,000 ($2,000 for the tags and $6,000 for the other RFID equipment, such as a printer and scanners), it would only cost a grower $80 per acre of a 100-acre field of sweet corn. Breaking it down further, if the grower was yielding 100,000 dozen ears of sweet corn over the production season, it would cost him 8 cents per dozen to implement the technology.



"If a grower is looking to sell to a new marketplace, that's definitely worth the investment," said Darr.



The Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers Congress is sponsored by Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Ohio Fruit Growers Society, Ohio Vegetable and Potato Growers Association, Ohio Direct Agricultural Marketing Association, and the Mid American Ag and Hort Services.



For more information, log on to www.ohiovegetables.org or www.ohiofruit.org.



SOURCE: News release from Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.