New System Tracks Pigs from Farm to Plate

19 December 2011, at 11:59am

CHINA - A system has been developed that will help ensure the safety of pork products in the Shandong Province while improving the efficiency of the food supply chain in the region.

IBM and Shandong Commercial Group Co. Ltd began working together in 2010 to create the new system, which is being tested by six selected slaughter houses, six warehouses and about 100 Inzone hypermarkets and supermarkets across the Shandong province.

When fully deployed in 2013, the system will allow Lushang Group to monitor and trace the movement of meat across all phases of the supply chain, including farms, processing plants, trucks and supermarkets.

"When fully deployed, this system will give consumers in the Shandong Province confidence in the pork products they serve to their families,” said Wang Guo Li, director, National Agricultural Research Centre for Modern Logistics Engineering.

"As an agricultural powerhouse within China, our province is committed to improving food safety and this system marks a significant step toward that goal.”

Using IBM WebSphere software running on IBM System x Servers, experts from IBM China Development Lab and China’s National Engineering Research Center for Agricultural Products Logistics have created a pork monitoring and tracking system that can extract and store actionable business information from the millions of interconnected sensors that make up the “Internet of Things.”

The system brings an unprecedented level of accountability and efficiency to every stage of the pork production process. These stages include:

Production: The process begins at pig slaughter houses, where every pig is tagged with a bar code bearing a unique serial number which follows the packed pork products – as they move through the province’s supply chain. In addition to tagging, better monitoring is made possible at these facilities through the addition of cameras that monitor the production process right up until shipping.

Distribution: To ensure that meat is transported at a safe temperature, Lushang Group has deployed temperature and humidity sensors and well as global positioning and geographic information systems. Using these technologies, Lushang Group can track the whereabouts of trucks and monitor the temperature and humidity conditions in each refrigerated container. If conditions exceed certain thresholds, the system will send an alert to prompt corrective action.

Retailers: Lushang Group has addressed the final phase of the pork supply chain – the retailer – by helping select supermarkets connect their ERP and point of sale systems to the platform, allowing tracking of every item sold.

In the event that a consumer’s illness can be linked to pork produced in the Shandong Province, Lushang Group’s new system will be able to pinpoint the stores that have the tainted food is, arrange a targeted recall and in turn, minimise the number of people who get sick, while keeping pork that is safe available for purchase.

“Based on our experiences in building food and pharmaceutical tracking systems in other countries, IBM has helped to create a system that traces pork through the entire supply chain from pig farms all the way to supermarkets” said Matt Wang, Vice President, IBM China Development Lab. “Using this system, Shandong Province’s pork products will be safer and thus, more desirable to consumers. Governments and pork producers in other countries should take note of what Lushang Group is doing."