Table of Contents
In recent times, there have been complains from the side of the consumers societies all over the world concerning the safety of the products. Consumers demand full information about the goods they buy as well as the food substances they consume. The rise of genetically modified organisms and organic modified substances, and the increased use of agro chemicals have raised a question about the safety of food we consume. Consumers have been demanding the reliable ways of identifying such goods. In trade sector, there have been reported losses of money to counterfeit goods, theft and smuggling of goods in ports. This research paper looks at the application of information technology and bar code in various sectors of the economy. It also focuses on the efforts of IT and barcode to solve the above issues.
Barcodes is a technology that involves representing/coding information about an object in a format that is recognized and decoded by optical readers called barcode readers and scanners (Harmon & Adams, 1989). Normally, barcodes appear as black and white parallel lines of different thickness. However, there are several barcodes that look differently. Barcodes are of different types, including linear barcodes also called 1D and 2D. Linear barcodes are parallel lines while 2D is of different shape. Linear barcodes are easy to scan and decode as the information is coded in a linear manner. The hardware used for scanning them is readily available and inexpensive. The limitation of linear barcodes is that they are can only store little information and once the codes get damaged, the information in the barcodes gets lost. 2D barcodes are a bit different; they can store large amounts of information including a mixture of numbers and letters. If 2D bar codes are damaged by nearly 15-20%, the error can be corrected. The limitation of 2D barcode is that, compared to the linear barcodes, their readers and scanners are special and a bit more expensive.
Agriculture is an art and science of rearing animals and cultivating crops (Tilman, Cassman, Matson, Naylor, & Polasky, 2002). There are various fields of agriculture, such as aquaculture, apiculture, horticulture, floriculture, and many more. Agriculture is a sensitive sector in the economy of every country and more so, the global economy. In most countries, it is referred to as the backbone of the economy. Agriculture provides food to the ever growing population. Early scholars like Malthus predicted that in mid-19th century the world would face food shortage and many human beings will die of hunger. However, in the 20th century, scientists focused on researches that would enable the world to produce enough food for the population; these efforts of scientists have brought about what is known as agriculture revolution. Agriculture revolution involved the application of scientific researches, information technology, biotechnology, and genetic engineering in production of food. Agriculture revolution was one of the greatest breakthroughs as it saved the world from the impending hunger.
Use of Barcode in Agriculture Fields (Fruits and Grapes)
Barcode technology is largely used in the agricultural field, especially in the fruit producing industries. In the recent days, there have been public concerns about the controversial issues of genetic modified organisms, organic foods, and the chemical content of the fruits. People all over the world sent complaints to the farmers, standard regulatory bodies and the government. The situation has led to the fall of the market related to fruits and grapes worldwide. People avoided eating fruits for fear about the health safety. However, not all people were against genetically modified organisms. Some people were ready to consume the genetically modified organisms.
Because of public demand, researchers introduced the use of barcodes in the field of fruits and grapes (Tilman et al., 2002). Each category of fruit was given a different code. The code represented the information about the fruit, whether it is GMO or Organic. The code also provided information about the agro chemicals that were used in growing the fruits. Barcode helped to solve the whole issue by providing the required information to the customers. With that information provided, the customers were given an opportunity to choose what to consume. The demand for fruits and grapes came back to normal after the introduction of barcode technology.
Barcode technology is used in the Produce Traceability Initiative. This initiative aims at tracking the products all the way from its source. Most countries have regulations demanding that the fruits and grapes should be exported or imported from or into their countries and coded in a way that they can be traced. The process of coding the fruits starts right from the farmer. After harvesting, farmer gives the code to his/her product hence initiating the whole process of tracing. Once the farmer has packed their products and assigned a code to them, the products are transported to the shippers. Shippers receive the cartons from the customers and they are put in boxes called pallet. This process is called palleting. Each pallet is assigned with a code. After palleting fruits are shipped to their destination. The shipping company sends the information about the cargo to the receiving end; the company at the receiving end acquires the details about each item in the cargo in advance. This information is called advance ship notice. With this information provided, the fruits and grapes can be traced all the way from their source.
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Relationship between Barcode and IT and Its Importance in the Farming Industry
This paper has defined barcode as a technology of representing information about an object in a format that can be recognized and decoded by barcode readers and scanners. Information technology on the other hand is a practice of collecting, analyzing, documenting, sharing and disseminating information using computer and telecommunication systems. With this definition, it is clear that barcode technology is part and parcel of information technology. Information technology is a broad field whose major aim is to ease collection, storing, sharing, analyzing and transferring of data. Barcode codes the data in a way that it can be easily shared, stored, and transferred. This shows that the objectives of IT and that of barcode are interlinked. Therefore, barcode system is part of information technology among many other gadgets like, computer, memory sticks, external mass storage devices, modems and Internet services among many others. Information technology alongside barcode is an important development in agriculture. They can be applied in all activities concerning the agricultural products. In particular, they can be used in processing of agricultural products, transporting, value addition, food safety, packing, preserving, quality management, pest control management, and fertilizer and agrochemical application among many other activities.
Information technology plays a very important role in the agricultural sector. All stakeholders in agriculture require reliable and well linked information. There are direct and indirect stakeholders in agriculture. Direct stakeholders in agriculture are the ones who handle agricultural products. For example, these are farmers, processing industries and marketers of agricultural products among others. Indirect stakeholders in agriculture include; policy makers, agricultural officers, agricultural extension officers, and researchers.
Information technology provides the platform where all stakeholders interact, exchange ideas, and share important information amongst them. Information shared through such platforms is reliable and secured from distortion and interference. The use of information technology in agriculture is called e-agriculture.
Information shared helps stakeholders make good decisions. Since the information technology links the whole world, it is easy to get much information, suggestions, opinions and diverse ideas regarding agriculture. This enables stakeholders to have enough reliable information for decision making.
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Barcodes help agricultural practitioners to collect information and store it in a form that is technologically advanced rather than using bulky paperwork (Harmon & Adams, 1989). The collected information helps in keeping inventories that enable the stakeholders to plan as well as increase agricultural products output.
Information technology enables the stake holders in agricultural sector to gather information on the prevailing conditions in the markets. This enables them to make decisions on how to fix prices of agricultural inputs and outputs to avoid losses.
Information technologies enable storing of huge amounts of agriculture related information. Such information is guarded by the selected organizations such as International System for Agriculture Science and Technology (AGRIS), and Agricultural Information Management Standards. AGRIS is involved in documenting bibliographies related to agriculture science and technology.
Barcodes are used for safety purpose in agricultural sector. Manufactured and processed agricultural products are faced with a serious threat of counterfeit, when counterfeit products enter the market unnoticed. The supply of products floods the market while the demand remains the same. This is against the law of demand and supply, meaning the prices will go down and the agriculture sector will be greatly affected. Counterfeit goods also tarnishe the image of the genuine companies; this ruins their reputation and makes the customers look for other alternative products. When agriculture sector loses, the government also loses because agricultural companies will not raise taxes. Barcode enables tracing the product to their manufactures, which means that counterfeit goods will be easily traced and swept away from the market.
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Barcode is used to ensure security of food (Harmon & Adams, 1989). Every human being consumes food. This makes the food substances the most demanded goods in the world. As a result, millions of tons of agricultural related products are processed, transported and sold daily. Due to their high demand, agricultural related products are prone to theft. Through barcode technology, each and every item in the lots, cartons and pallets is labeled and the information is well stored. This makes the agricultural products easily traceable in case they are stolen. Uniform Code Council recorded that, barcode had saved the world 1 trillion dollars in 30 years.
Barcodes are used in animal husbandry for identification and record keeping. A tag with a barcode on it is hanged/masked on the ear of the animal like cow or pig. The barcode has coded information regarding that animal, for example, its age, breed, sex and other related information. In this case, barcode enables the farmer to keep information about the animals in a format that is safe, easy to retrieve, and easy to share. Barcode saves the farmer from keeping information in paperwork which may be at times tiresome and likely to be distorted.
How Barcodes Organizes and Limit Problem in Exporting Goods
The process of exporting gods from one country to another either by road, railways, air or water is simplified by the introduction of barcode technology in the system. Millions of tons of goods get exported across the global boundaries every day. Before the introduction of barcode system in the export systems, frustrating bureaucracies were used in ports and points of entry. Long waiting lines, theft, time wastage and inconveniences were experienced during the export process. Export of perishable goods like flowers and vegetables was even more risky. Before barcodes were introduced, information regarding the items being exported had been stored manually. This made the process of export tiresome and cumbersome. It also relied on paperwork which was prone to alteration and manipulation.
The process of exporting which is managed through barcode technology starts right from the source of the product (Harmon & Adams, 1989). The first handler of the products initiates the whole process of assigning the code to the product. If the goods are agricultural, the farmer will be the first one to give the product a code; if goods are industrial, it is manufacturer who will assign code to their goods. After assigning codes, the goods are transported to the shipper. Shippers use elaborate coding that is more complicated than the one that was used by the first handler. This is because they will have to harmonize the cartons that have been received from the first handler and put them together in a single pallet. A single pallet holding many cartons will be given a code which is a pallate number. This process is called palleting. After palleting, the goods are ready for export because all information about the product is well documented. When the process of shipping is completed, the shipping company compiles all the shipping information, and conveys the same to the receiving side. This process is called advance ship notice. Advance ship notice gives the receiving end the information regarding the cargo and the specific identification of each item. At the destination, the relevant authority will have all the information about the cargo and will confirm it as they unload.
Barcode technology in the export process helps to solve verification problems. Before the barcode was introduced, there had been disputes among companies exporting goods. This is because, in course of loading, reloading and storing in the warehouse, boxes, cartons or pallets may get mixed up. Without barcode identification, the disputes will rise and may cause serious harm. Otherwise, if the products are coded, the process of tracing the lost goods will be faster.
How Important Is IT in the Future
The future of everything is based on the success of its present. Information technology keeps advancing day after day. In our future, more advance and more accurate technology will come into place not to replace the present technology, but to supplement it. When all the countries of the world will come to the same level of technology, the world will save a lot of money and time that get wasted due to lack of proper information. In the economy of every country, there are challenges of counterfeit goods, smuggling, trade of illegal goods, drug trafficking and many more. With advancement in technology, these vices will be eliminated.
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Information technology makes people all over the world linked with one another. People feel they belong to one global village. In this global village, all kinds of information are available for everyone. This means that people all over the world will have full access to the information. Third world countries, which at the moment do not have access to the advanced technology, will open wider markets once they get connected to the Internet.