An Innovative Anti-Theft System for Olive Groves

An inexpensive security system uses fake olives with microchips to help olive growers prevent and detect thefts, an increasing concern in the sector.

Dec. 6, 2018
By Rosa Gonzalez-Lamas

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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.


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