SYDNEY – The SustainaWool Integrity Scheme, recently handed over from New England Wool and other shareholders to the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX), is to implement a subscriber-based fee system in the coming weeks which will entitle members to a comprehensive suite of on-farm inspection, auditing and certification assessments on a rolling basis.
Since taking the mantel, AWEX has outlined its ambition to build upon its pre-existing products and services to establish the SustainaWool scheme as a one-stop-shop for buyers, growers and other members in the industry for these services. Its next focus is expected to be on the potential of introducing traceability technologies within the wool sector to alleviate counterfeiting concerns and ensure complete supply chain transparency.
With more than 1,000 accredited members, and its membership rate growing at an alleged 25 per cent per annum, the SustainaWool scheme has grown to become a leading service provider within the wool sector.
Now, according to reports from Sheep Central, the scheme is set to switch up its approach by switching to a subscriber-based fee system, whereby members would essentially be funding the work of the scheme, in return for its farm management and sustainable practice assessments.
First put to industry professionals at the recent Australian Wool Industries Secretariat’s Wool Week, the AWEX body noted that whilst it will continue to cover industry-standard assessment protocols, it is keen to venture into the prospects of providing traceability tools to the industry.
In 2013, AWEX commissioned a review of available RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to identify competent solutions that it felt could one day be implemented within wool supply chains.
It’s now thought the ‘eBale’ project is worth revisiting, with new solutions on the horizon. Outdoor company Bluey Merino has developed a new near-field communication (NFC) label for products that it’s believed could provide a sound solution to preventing counterfeiting.
The Australian firm collaborated with the University of Wollongong and received backing from the government of New South Wales to conceptualise the NFC labels. This, because its garments integrate high-quality Merino wool and so ensuring the traceability of this product from farm to customer mitigates the possibility of intervention or counterfeiting.
“Throughout the world NSW products are renowned for their high quality so it’s critical that we guard against their counterfeiting with technology that guarantees their provenance,” noted Deputy Premier and Minister for Industry John Barilaro.
According to SustainaWool programme manager Paul Swan, who spoke with Sheep Central, says that “very soon the industry will be in a position where we have the full electronic traceability of each individual bale back to an individual farm or Property Identification Code with the documented chain of custody, which is necessary.”
With its new approach and broader outlook at viable solutions, the scheme is keen to hone in on how transparency could benefit those in the sector.