Their shape, color and texture are almost identical to that of the olives on a tree, making it hard to determine which are the real olives and which are the intelligent fake ones that act as a lure to prevent and detect olive thefts in the grove, an increasing concern in Spain’s olive sector.

This is the newest concept of AgroSecurity, an Andalusian company that has developed a high-tech, biodegradable olive-shaped system with a hidden microchip that uses radiofrequency to trace the origin of the olive batches and helps identify the stolen lots.

Thefts have become a serious problem throughout Spain’s olive groves because of the enormous amounts of olives stolen to bona fide growers and because there even are groups organized to rob.

Olive thefts are difficult to identify and even more difficult to prove because of the challenges involved in demonstrating the origin of the olives. This curtails the possibility of returning the product to the grower who cultivated them.

The microchip installed inside the intelligent olives acts as an alarm. The fake olives are hung in the tree before olives ripen. Growers can place these baits in those areas believed to be most susceptible to thefts. The idea is that these lures act as a speaker, confirming that the bunches of olives in which they were found do not belong to the real owner of the olive trees.

Radiofrequency pistols are employed to read the codes in the microchips, helping cooperatives and police authorities detect the presence of the fake olives in a group, at any stage from the moment of the harvest through their delivery at the cooperatives. The microchips also allow tracing the exact origin of the bunch so that the stolen olives can be returned to their real owner.

The anti-theft system that uses radiofrequency can go a step further by adding GPS locators to the fake olives. The GPS locator will allow growers to know at every moment the exact location of the olives and of the group they are meant to shield. This can help detect thefts much quicker and help olive mills corroborate the origin of certain batches supposed to be pressed for olive oils from very specific growing areas.

In addition to being biodegradable, easy-to-use and handle, this anti-theft system has yet another advantage: a relatively inexpensive cost. A box of three fake olives costs around 3.99 Euros which means a grower can protect an area of 1,000 olive trees for approximately 75-100 Euros. Larger boxes of 10, 50, and 100 units will also be available. Olives with GPS locator systems are sold at a higher price of 29.99 Euros.

To facilitate the purchase of lure olives AgroSecurity plans to install vending machines at olive cooperatives. Cooperative membership cards will allow growers to codify each fake olive with the information of the grower and the plots where the olives will be placed, thus facilitating their traceability.

“We have completed the production of the first radiofrequency detector for cooperatives and we now work in its production on a large scale. The detectors have been conceived for a quick and simple installation that do not interfere with other devices in the cooperative,” said Ricardo Cárdenas, financial director of AgroSecurity, whose initiative has been supported by Jaén’s Andalusian Center for Entrepreneurship and Automatismos ITEA, which has managed the technological aspects of the project.

According to Cárdenas, software is in its final trial phase with the objective of having the system fully operational for the 2019/2020 olive campaign.
In addition to Spain, Mexico, Morocco, Portugal, Italy and Greece have shown interest in this system that prevents thefts and helps trace the origin of olives.

Installing radiofrequency antennas in the courtyards of olive cooperatives to detect lure olives right upon arrival is another goal of AgroSecurity, which currently also works on a similar radiofrequency security system for almonds and avocados.