2010 RFID Journal Award: RFID Helps Ensure That Special Cup of Joe

Almacafe, the warehousing subsidiary of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, tracks specialty coffee beans to better compete in the global market.
By Jennifer Zaino
"It is certainly very important for our customers, since they are able to access the information of their coffee—including the origin, the coffee grower and the farm where it was cultivated," Rivera says. "They also can access information about where the coffee is in the Almacafé facilities, and about the milling and warehousing conditions."

Brewing a Solution
Almacafé first considered tracking beans in 2004, at which time it thought bar-code technology could provide transparency along the supply chain. But it discovered that reading bar-code labels on coffee sacks is unwieldy and time-consuming, and when bags weighing more than 40 kilograms (88 pounds) are hauled around, their battered labels sometimes become unreadable. So in 2006, Almacafé turned to RFID technology.

The RFID tags on coffee sacks are first read as soon as they arrive at a warehouse.

The customized solution developed by Almacafé requires that each Gen 2 RFID tag be encased in a wear-resistant plastic capsule. The Federation pays for the tags, which cost about 25 cents each. "The National Federation of Coffee Growers has an amazing database that includes all the coffee growers and the production capacity of each of the farms," Rivera says. "Based on this information, the Federation gets the necessary quantity of capsules with the RFID tags."

Before the tags are distributed to the farmers, each tag is assigned a coffee grower identification number, which is associated in Almacafé's RFIDTrack database with the ID number of the farm and the specialty coffee program code. As soon as the growers fill the coffee sacks, they tag the bags.
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