RFID Technology for Product Identity and Tracking in the Nursery Industry
According to Wikipedia, radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the use of an object (typically referred to as an RFID tag) applied to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification and tracking using radio waves. Some tags can be read from several meters away and beyond the line of sight of the reader.
RFID tags come in many shapes, sizes, and radio frequency responses. Low Frequency (LF) RFID tags experience less interference from moisture, soil, and metal in the field than Ultra High Frequency (UHF) tags but have a relatively short read range. Ultra high frequency RFID tags experience similar interference problems but are the RFID technology promoted for eventual retail use. Both LF and UHF RFID tags may be suitable for use in tracking nursery plants in production but UHF tags are probably better for use as an electronic product code (EPC) for retail sales. Some of the UHF tags have the capability of being printed using a thermal printer and are a polyester material which is expected to persist in the nursery environment and may make them suitable for production and retail use. The distance a RFID tag can be read is determined by the radio frequency but more importantly by the size of the integrated antenna. Current problems with RFID are the high cost to deploy and proprietary tag/reader interfaces. In addition, RFID technology has yet to be standardized for retail use. To reduce cost of using RFID, the current recommendation is to place a RFID tag on a post in the field for every field block.
An Inventory and plant management software with RFID reading capability is being developed. The software interface for recording and tracking RFID tag information is almost complete. The software database and interface logic specifically for inventory tracking and production records is in the process of being written. It is expected that this software will run on a handheld device with a built in RFID reader. The proposed process will require tagging a block of plants in a nursery with a single RFID tag for tracking inventory.