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bioSouth identity initiative leading ID develpmts

MEDIA RELEASE from bioSouth
October 17, 2005

bioSouth identity initiative leading ID developments

The international demand for cost-effective ways of validating food origin and quality has never been greater, and it’s never been more important for New Zealand to demonstrate traceability for its products.

Developing good systems for identification is fundamental, not only for New Zealand suppliers to be able to meet consumer demands to trace product back to the supplier, and even the particular animal on an individual farm, but also to provide robust authentication for preventing trade fraud. Accurate identification helps in food safety issues, and in improving the cost and efficiency of new generation supply chain processes.

No one traceability product can meet all identification needs, but there are several different organisations working now on some very innovative technologies set to revolutionise New Zealand’s future identification systems for animals and products. And many of those innovative people are based in Dunedin.

These businesses are already developing or marketing products using DNA testing, electronic scanning using radio frequency identification, and chemical fingerprinting that they have adapted and devised for a particular trace-back purpose. All have a specific role to play in the supply chain, be it on-farm, transport, processing, storage, shipping, and retail, but up until now, these businesses have acted independently.

However bioSouth is providing opportunities for closer working relationships for these powerful, ground-breaking innovations. A “cluster”, formed from a nucleus of Dunedin business using a wide range of unique technologies in the identification of animals and products, provides a welcome structure for collaboration, networking, and potential joint projects and products. While all businesses work within their own space, the bioSouth cluster has already facilitated valuable collaboration since it was formed earlier in the year.

bioSouth is a network of Dunedin’s technology based organisations set up to encourage links between research and industry, to generate more wealth for Otago from biotechnology.
bioSouth chairman Dr Peter Fennessy sees positive benefits from a co-operative approach.

“New Zealand has to establish a position to control its own destiny – we must keep up or run the risk of having trading nations dictate systems to us. There are groups in New Zealand quietly getting on with the development of technologies specific to our unique needs. What we’ve done is brought together people from biotechnology, agri-technology and others, and put them in a space where all the technologies can be examined. We hope that this will give New Zealand a major lead in identifying origin of products - the potential for New Zealand to benefit from the development of a range of identity technologies is huge.”

Several of the businesses and organisations involved in traceability recently showcased their novel innovations at an event hosted by bioSouth and the NZBio AgBio Special Interest group in Dunedin. Not only did the showcase highlight the depth of innovation in Dunedin, but also the uniquely successful approach bioSouth has provided for the cluster. Those attending were impressed with the progress New Zealand researchers are making on world-scale in developing trace-back technologies.

Innovative identification projects presented at the showcase:

RFID in the supply chain
Sharl Liebergreen, Abacus Biotech
Most people know that farmer’s ear-tag their stock for identification, but new electronic identification technologies being used on-farm are enabling valuable new propositions. High frequency electronic ear-tags; hand-held devices and long-range readers will give farmers and processors substantially better and cheaper animal identification. High frequency RFID (radio frequency identification) will allow individual animals, perhaps possessing specific characteristics, to be identified and tracked through a supply chain. Features include reading tags 200 times faster than technologies currently in use, scanning multiple animals at once, working in metal environments or near electrical motors, and an ability to write animal information onto the animal’s ear-tag.

DNA technologies in meat
Grant Shackell, AgResearch
DNA provides an unequivocal audit tool for verifying identification. On-farm DNA obtained from blood, hair or tissue provides information on species, breed, strain or brand, production traits, parentage and individual animals, and DNA tests on meat can now trace meat cuts such as chops back to individual animals. Now technology is developing to identify animals from the ground meat in meat patties – something made more complex because ground beef uses meat from many animals. DNA technology can provide information on the individual beef cattle used in patties.

Isotopic geo-location
Tye Husheer, Iso-trace
Chemical analyses traditionally report the presence or absence, and concentration of a particular compound. Iso-trace is the next step up, providing chemical fingerprinting using isotype ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS), which analyses the changing ratios of chemicals when physical or environmental factors change. This knowledge can be used to provide valuable point of origin information, for instance evidence of illegal commercial fishing, or origin of invasive species.

DNA technologies on farm
Tony Arthur, Ovita
There are already DNA based products in the market to help farmers make smart choices. Catapult uses the information from DNA testing of stock on-farm so farmers can decide which stock to keep, kill, treat and mate, thereby accelerating genetic improvement and increasing the value of the animals. DNA testing is already commercially available to determine parentage of stud stock and identify meat yield, fertility and disease traits in sheep, and this is just the beginning - further identification tests to improve farm productivity and reduce disease are in the pipeline.

RFID technology and container transport
Steve Walker, NASMA Technology
Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a fast developing method for advanced recording and tracking of products. Technology developed in Dunedin has allowed the technique to be used for recording information on shipping containers - now major international ports and logistics businesses are very interested in adopting the technology. This system has the capacity to carry considerable data on the container’s content, origin etc, providing very efficient traceability.

DNA technologies in meat
Diana Hill, Global Technologies (NZ) Ltd
Simple, cheap and disposable diagnostic devices capable of generating electronic signals from DNA barcodes have been developed to test and trace different meat characteristics. They provide a powerful link between all components of the global food supply chain, ranging from on-farm genetic testing and traceability, to border surveillance and point of sale testing.

Retina ID solutions
Malcolm Fechney, One Paddock Ltd
Retina identification, once the realms of science fiction movies, has moved on-farm as a means of animal identification, and offers a unique way of distinguishing sheep, cattle and deer. Retina images using an optireader devise to quickly scan the eyeball, are unique to every animal, can’t be altered, and are inexpensive and straightforward to carry out. Biometric identification solutions such as this have the potential to underpin future animal identification.

Barcodes and electronic codes for testing and identification
Gary Hartley, GS1 New Zealand (Formerly known as EAN New Zealand)
Increasingly, information about products, such as where are they and where they have been, is as important to organisations as the products themselves. RFID technologies seem set to become as ubiquitous as the barcode, and GS1 the global, not for profit agency responsible for standardised bar coding technologies is assisting businesses move from ‘atoms to bits’ through standardised RFID technology. This is known as the EPCglobal Network (a subsidiary of GS1 NZ) and the Electronic Product (EPC). In doing so, EPCglobal will ensure that RFID is standards based – where New Zealand businesses share data/information in a synchronised and interoperable manner between trading partners locally and globally.

About bioSouth
bioSouth is a network of Dunedin’s technology based businesses and other related entities whose aim is to generate more wealth for the region from Biotechnology. The initiative aims to generate this wealth by providing an environment that encourages links between research and industry. Membership of bioSouth includes a wide range of skills, from the University of Otago’s research capabilities, to plant and animal breeding expertise at AgResearch and Crop and Food and every other skill required to take science into the market, from project management to a range of business services.


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