Using a standards-based traceability system to improve horticulture supply chains


Traceability is being able to identify a product anywhere along the supply chain and follow its journey from origin to destination (Olsen & Borit, 2013). It is becoming a critical part of modern agriculture because it provides information about provenance, authenticity, chain of custody and enhances food safety measures. Although traceability in some form is common in horticulture, increasing challenges with the interoperability of systems and data standard agreements make it difficult for growers, retailers and government to work together. This is especially important if a food recall, emergency management situation or biosecurity incursion occurs. Having a data standard for traceability systems would make it easier for all stakeholders along the supply chain to work together and receive data quickly and efficiently. It would also reduce the time spent identifying products in the supply chain, reduce food waste and provide better protection for our fresh food industries.

The International Organisation for Standardisation/International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) endorses common data structures that allow for easy integration. GS1 is an international standards-writing organisation that has been recognised by ISO/IEC as a standard system provider for a wide variety of supply chain processes, including globally unique product identification. Using these standards allows for the integration of many supply chain processes, increasing traceability.

This report describes the results from a pilot trial of adopting digital traceability in two horticulture production systems. Woolworths-branded brushed potatoes and organic cherries had unique serialised QR codes with a GS1 Digital Link label applied to the bags and punnets. The GS1 Digital Link was encrypted with location data and a scannable QR code, which led to an interactive consumer application that could be viewed on a smartphone. The GS1 Digital Link enabled the product to be traced in real-time, from property to store. It also provided information about how the product moved along the supply chain, the time spent at each location and allowed for real-time feedback from consumers. Specifically, the following outcomes were achieved:

  • successful proof-of-concept of ISO/IEC-compliant data standards
  • understanding the value of the GS1 Global Location Number and National Location Registry for integrated traceability
  • understanding the importance of a digital traceability system for managing an emergency, biosecurity incursion or food safety recall
  • exploring the importance of data sharing agreements and permissions-based data
  • realising the potential for data standards to provide a framework for electronic certification for market access and protocol requirements
  • increased awareness of the value of connecting the grower and consumer via the GS1 Digital Link.


Published: Jul 2022