The Secure Product Fingerprint for the food supply chain
How farmers in China protect their specialty produce against counterfeiting and increase its traceability.
Regional specialty products
Across the world, customers place a high value on agricultural products that are considered a regional specialty. Such products have a reputation for being of superior quality that is hard to come by elsewhere. Their distinctive characteristics are the result of unique environmental conditions and traditional agricultural practices specific to the region they come from.
For this reason, the origin of such products is usually highlighted on the product label. Origins that create an association with a product’s quality, reputation, or other characteristics are called geographical indications (GIs). GI marks are recognized by World Trade Organization members, including all European Union member states and China. The purpose of such product marking is to avoid misleading consumers and to stop unfair competition.
Global examples of products with a geographical indication
- Darjeeling tea: A special sort of tea grown in the Darjeeling or Kalimpong districts in West Bengal, India. One of the most popular black teas in the world.
- Champagne: Sparkling wine produced from specific types of grape sourced exclusively from the Champagne region of France.
High risk of counterfeiting and a lack of traceability
Such regional products not only attract customers; they are also subject to a higher risk of counterfeiting. Indeed, for some free riders, the opportunity to boost sales of lower-quality products simply by misrepresenting their origin is just too much of a temptation to resist.
In China, this particularly affects local farmers who supply fruit and vegetables with a geographical indication to the domestic market. These farmers put a lot of effort into growing the traditional crops for which their region is known. This means, conserving the natural resources essential for their farming and ensuring a continuity of traditional knowledge. Alongside counterfeiting, their business also suffers from a lack of traceability and proper quality-assurance mechanisms.
To address these challenges, Zhejiang Chuangji Electronics has launched a dedicated digital platform for farmers and consumers in 2020.
A digital platform for GI agricultural products
The solution consists of two parts. The first part is a multifunctional platform that enables eligible farmers to obtain a digital certificate of the geographical indication for their product and to create a detailed profile. This profile includes, for example, a description of the product’s distinctive features, the specific methods of crop cultivation, any awards and certificates received, and promotional photos and videos. The online platform also stores any relevant records documenting that the production process complies with the country’s official regulations. Having a centralized platform makes it easier for supervising authorities to ensure proper quality-control procedures for agricultural produce.
The second part is the Secure Product Fingerprint – Bosch’s patented anti-counterfeiting solution, which is based on computer vision and AI technology. Participating farmers can order Secure Product Fingerprint labels via the platform. These QR code labels are enhanced with special micro-features that make it virtually impossible to copy them . The labels are then added to product packaging and registered in the cloud database. Each time a label is scanned, the data is sent to the platform, thereby ensuring product traceability. This way, the platform provides tracking of agricultural products right along their production and distribution channels.
When the product reaches a retailer, the consumer can easily verify its authenticity by scanning the QR code label with a smartphone camera. The system then checks the label data against a sample stored in the cloud so as to confirm that the product is genuine and comes from a particular region.