The provision of reliable information on food production methods, food and food products is one of the main consumer demands from agriculture. New costs related to animal welfare and environmental requirements have to be outweighed by improved cost management to maintain farmers' labour income. Hence, the animal production sector asks for improved data collection. Therefore, an intelligent multisensor microsystem for remote data acquisition by telemetry was developed within an EC-project.
All farm animals need to have a tamper proof, unique identification number (EC regulation 92/102). This technology was also applicable for food preservation, which must be monitored during transport and storage, especially with respect to temperature sensitive foods and food products (EC regulations 92/I, 93/43). Also the origin of the branded food products must be guaranteed (92/2081 to 2084).
The R&D element of the FAME has already been completed. FAME was a bi-directional high speed multiple read/write transponder (length 4 cm, diameter 0.5 cm) having its own power source, a small battery with a life of 2 years. Its interface chip allowed the integration of two different sensors (e.g. temperature and acceleration measurement). The chip can be used in different transponders for several applications (passive and active). Data was collected, downloaded into memory, stored, and read together with the identification code, when the transponder was activated by the antenna field of a reader (e.g. after transport or storage providing time information on the product or process). Its micro-processor allowed programmable data collection, recalibration of sensors on site, and encryption of data.
The aim of the project was to validate its application for farm animal disease monitoring, and transfer the technology to monitoring of food products during transport and storage. Two applications were demonstrated:
- monitoring of fish from catch to consumption
- monitoring of meat from production to consumption
- welfare and oestrus monitoring of sows.
The combined need for small size, low power consumption, long-term stability, noise immunity and biocompatibility was a challenge for the specialists involved. A redesign of the available chip was necessary to cope with recent production technologies and ISO transmission standards. The following programme of work took place
- adaptation and scaling up of the available design, fabrication
- pilot implementation, testing, training
- demonstration at real scale (fish, meat): installation of equipment on vehicles, production and packaging lines, supermarkets and dispatching centre
- technology diffusion through organisation of workshops, production of demonstration video's.