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RFID tracks koa trees in Hawaii

Two years ago RFID 24-7 wrote about Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods’ quest to use RFID to track the replanting of koa trees on hundreds of acres of land located 34 miles north of Hilo on the slopes of Mauna Kea.

At the time, HLH was tagging about 25,000 trees with the intent to grow the program to 250,000 trees. Tagging the trees gives individual tree investors the ability to track the tree’s health and location as it grows to maturity over a 25 year growing period. However, the lack of an efficient and scalable RFID tagging solution slowed the project.

RFID in agriculture

RFID is being used to track koa trees in Hawaii.

HLH partnered with RFID solutions provider SimplyRFID and Confidex, an RFID label supplier. Both recommended that HLH deploy Zebra printers for a dramatically faster way to generate labels.

Now, HLH intends to print 80,000 labels this year and as many as 120,000 for next season. At that volume, the previous process for creating labels would have required substantially more manpower.

“We print about 100 tags per minute now, which is easily 10 times faster than before,” said Darryl Fox, chief operating officer. “We spend a lot less time and manpower making RFID tags.”

For each tree, HLH runs Confidex Carrier labels through Zebra printers and affixes them on stakes. Each label has an RFID chip and a serial number that is linked with GPS coordinates in the database along with details about tree ownership, growth, maintenance, lumber-yield and pedigree. They then dip stakes in a plastic sealant that protects them from the elements.

As they plant each sapling, the 3-inch tag, encased in plastic, is inserted into the ground sticking up enough to be easily read from a distance of about 10 feet. To read tags, some covered with years of buildup of leaves and debris, the company uses the CS101 handheld interrogator from  Convergence Systems. From there, data is transmitted wirelessly to the company’s database.

The HLH project provides the unique opportunity for individuals and institutional investors alike to invest in koa trees as a sustainable commodity by purchasing specific units (100 koa trees per unit).  HLH has made it possible for this investment opportunity to be accessible to a wide range of investors and investment vehicles including trusts, IRAs and 401Ks.  While it takes 25 years for a koa tree to reach maturity and be harvested, profits are realized along the way through thinning and harvesting.

Click here to read RFID 24-7’s previous coverage on HLH.

Click here to read the Zebra case study.

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