To develop a national provenance infrastructure, which will serve as the digital repository of all information needed to underpin cost-effective and accurate testing of food origin. This will enable testers to independently verify where food products were produced, or other critical provenance credentials.
A digital national food provenance infrastructure will make it possible to physically test food in any market in order to independently validate its Australian origin. The elemental characteristics of food will be compared to a nationally recognised provenance signature. This confirmation of origin can also be used to verified supply chain records, supporting food safety responses and building trust in quality and provenance and Australia’s reputation.
Currently there are very limited mechanisms to identify produce of Australian origin, most of which can be circumvented. This allows for opportunities for substitution, dilution or misrepresentation at many points along the supply chain. It also means that any digital traceability system cannot be independently verified.
Where there is no way of confirming that a physical product is irrefutably consistent with its supply chain documentation, the ability to respond to food safety incidents is compromised. And ultimately without the quality assurances that come with reliable traceability, consumer trust in the provenance of Australian labelled food is diminished.
Our proposed solution
We propose to develop an interoperable, scalable and accessible digital infrastructure for storing a nationally recognised signatures of food provenance. This will enable provenance (i.e. geographic origin, production methods) to be authenticated using a variety of verification technologies. This includes stable isotopes, elemental signatures and rapid, low cost infra-red (IR) scanning, rapid ionization techniques (REIMS) and compound specific stable isotope analysis (CSIA).
Effective integration of information requires new digital infrastructure, including data sharing protocols and data privacy.
A national provenance infrastructure will also require new science to efficiently capture and link fingerprints from both Australian landscapes and agricultural products. The soil and water used to grow food will be characterised using elemental chemical composition, creating a temporally and spatially unique predictive fingerprint for the major growing regions of Australia. The predictive regional fingerprint can be validated against products grown in that region. Developing a national provenance database will improve the offering and accuracy of existing commercial testing providers and lower the barriers of entry for new players.
Building a national infrastructure will require strong collaboration with industry, government and research. CSIRO is currently collaborating with range of organisations on related projects, including the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.