Client: Ministerio de Ganadería, Agricultura y Pesca, Gobierno de Uruguay Industry: Governance Solution: Sistema de Identificación Ganadera
In 2004 the Uruguayan Government established a national cattle identification system to support the struggle against foot and mouth disease, to satisfy the demanding health requirements from international markets. The successfully implemented SONDA solution was a new system, which incorporated IT and RFID identifiers for each animal. It was based on a group traceability system already implemented in Uruguay at that time.
The improvements were structured around several pillars: a continuously updated, secure, reliable data-base; optical form reading; and integration with the geographical information system. In addition, SONDA built and managed a specialist Data-center. Since the end of 2006 the system has been mandatory for individual cattle traceability.
A world problem
Until early 2004 Uruguay continued to send its meat to the European Union using its group traceability system. However, with the appearance in England of “mad cow disease” (1986) and in Japan of atypical forms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (1996) in human beings transmitted through certain foods, the Uruguayan government believed that the implementation of a complementary individual traceability system would be essential for all their animals.
The Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry launched a public tender in September 2002 to develop a National Livestock Information System (SNIG in Spanish), in order to control each stage in the life of an animal and its subsequent marketing, thereby guaranteeing its origin and food safety.
SONDA Uruguay, together with a consortium of companies in the technology sector, was awarded the project in October 2003, acquiring the challenge of incorporating technology into productive processes over the next few years, with the aim of migrating from a system based on group identification to individual.
Solution: RFID Technology
The project considered possible overlaps from the old paper based group traceability system, and a new individual traceability system based on the electronic identification of livestock. RFID technology held the most advantages in implementing individual traceability, for several reasons. Firstly, its costs are compatible with this value chain. Secondly, it is a mature and safe technology, as it provides the durability, strength, and integrity required. Finally, and fundamentally, it has proven to be entirely compatible with field use, which otherwise would have prevented its adoption.
The process starts when a calf is born, and it is assigned a unique identifying number. This is recorded in two devices carried by the animal: the first is a visual identifier, and the second is an RFID tag. After being placed, the producer completes a form that records data about the animal, such as the identification number, owner, season and year of birth, gender, race and cross-breeding. The information on this form is uploaded to a centralized database, which then begins to record all the events in the life of the calf.
When cattle are moved between producers, transport operators are responsible for capturing this information and transmitting it to the database. Therefore, transport operators are equipped with RFID readers, which extract information from animals and transmit it via the GPRS network to the centralized database, together with information regarding the animal’s destination. Therefore, the central system contains accurate and up-to-date information regarding the status and location of each calf.
In a country like Uruguay, where over 75% of their livestock production is exported, it is essential that the sanitary quality of their meat products can be guaranteed. The SONDA solution provides comparative advantages, as it complies with international quality standards.
It also unifies product marketing information and provides consumers with a reliable product, from a known origin, obtained through an effective process. This strengthens the image of a safe country that provides quality food.