GPS – Find­ing the way in the event of an in­cur­sion

One of the most im­por­tant fac­tors when deal­ing with an un­wanted pest in­cur­sion is the abil­ity to quickly iden­tify lo­ca­tions where that pest may be present.


Not know­ing phys­i­cal lo­ca­tions or be­ing able to quickly iden­tify lo­ca­tions where the pest may be, can cause sig­nif­i­cant de­lays in iden­ti­fy­ing the scale of the prob­lem, pre­vent­ing fur­ther spread and de­ter­min­ing the best course of con­trol.

The abil­ity to track prod­uct both for­wards and back­wards is of­ten re­ferred to as trace­abil­ity – this means hav­ing the abil­ity to trace where a con­sign­ment or af­fected prod­uct may have come from and been sent to. It also means be­ing able to iden­tify where an un­wanted pest may have spread to ei­ther nat­u­rally or me­chan­i­cally via peo­ple, ve­hi­cles or equip­ment.

Know­ing where po­ten­tial host crops are en­ables sur­veys to be set up and car­ried out to iden­tify not only where an un­wanted pest is, but just as im­por­tantly where is it is not. Dur­ing the last fruit fly in­cur­sion in 2015, the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries (MPI), us­ing var­i­ous trap­ping and sur­vey tech­niques, was able to con­firm ar­eas where fruit fly was not present. As a re­sult of this, hor­ti­cul­tural pro­duce was still able to be ex­ported to most coun­tries. Some of the over­seas mar­kets asked for com­par­a­tively mi­nor ad­di­tional as­sur­ances but still ac­cepted New Zealand fresh pro­duce be­cause we were able to iden­tify where fruit fly was present and also where it wasn’t present. Had New Zealand au­thor­i­ties not been able to con­firm the ab­sence of fruit fly in these lo­ca­tions, ex­ports to many coun­tries may have ceased com­pletely.

MPI Ap­proved Or­gan­i­sa­tions (MAOs) are or­gan­i­sa­tions that are ap­proved by MPI to un­der­take phy­tosan­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties lead­ing to ex­port cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. MAOs are of­ten pack­houses but can also be grow­ers, ex­porters and freight for­warders.

One of the re­quire­ments of an MAO is to “man­age prod­uct iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and trace­abil­ity (i.e. in­ven­tory records) from the place of pro­duc­tion to the point of ex­port”. Of­ten this is man­aged via grow­ers who sup­ply prod­uct pro­vid­ing de­tails such as GPS (global po­si­tion­ing sys­tem) prop­erty lo­ca­tion, prop­erty size, crops grown etc. when reg­is­ter­ing with a pack­house. Gen­er­ally, based on the reg­is­tra­tion form, a prop­erty iden­ti­fi­ca­tion code (or codes in the case of mul­ti­ple pro­duc­tion sites) will be pro­vided to the grower by the pack­house. From there prod­uct trace­abil­ity is man­aged us­ing the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion codes on the crate or bin-cards or some other form of la­belling on the prod­uct. As a rule, prod­uct trace­abil­ity is im­ple­mented well in New Zealand and in sit­u­a­tions where one or two prod­ucts need to be traced to a pro­duc­tion site this can be done rel­a­tively quickly.

How­ever, it may be time to con­sider how easy it would be to iden­tify the phys­i­cal lo­ca­tion of ALL pro­duc­tion sites quickly if you were asked to pro­vide where a host crop is be­ing grown in the event of a biose­cu­rity in­cur­sion. Would the in­for­ma­tion de­tailed on the grower reg­is­tra­tion form be spe­cific enough to pin­point a prop­erty if you were un­fa­mil­iar with the area?

A lo­ca­tion de­scrip­tion of “next to the big Macro­carpa af­ter the Smiths prop­erty on Stock Road” might be very clear to you but won’t mean much to some­one sit­ting be­hind a com­puter in Auck­land.

GPS co-or­di­nates are a uni­ver­sal lo­ca­tion iden­ti­fier that leaves noth­ing

to in­ter­pre­ta­tion. GPS co-or­di­nates are eas­ily ob­tained via mo­bile apps or web­sites that can be ac­cessed us­ing your com­puter. Col­lect­ing GPS co­or­di­nates at the same time as other in­for­ma­tion from sup­ply­ing grow­ers will en­able MAOs to quickly and eas­ily pro­vide spe­cific de­tails of prop­erty lo­ca­tions.

In turn, this in­for­ma­tion could then be very quickly mapped and used for planning sur­veys and crop in­spec­tions. In the event of a biose­cu­rity in­cur­sion, MAOs would not be the only or­gan­i­sa­tions asked to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about phys­i­cal lo­ca­tions or prop­er­ties where po­ten­tial host crops might be present. There­fore, it would be ben­e­fi­cial for other or­gan­i­sa­tions that pack or source prod­uct from mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions to also have on hand ac­cess to GPS co-or­di­nates of prop­er­ties prod­uct has been sourced from. MAOs are re­quired to pro­vide the GPS lo­ca­tion of the MAO fa­cil­ity. In the case of be­ing an MAO pack­house this does not in­clude sup­ply­ing grow­ers’ pro­duc­tion sites. So, al­though not a re­quire­ment un­der any rules or reg­u­la­tions, be­ing pre­pared and main­tain­ing records of GPS co­or­di­nates for all prop­er­ties you are pro­duc­ing on or sourc­ing pro­duce from may save valu­able time in a biose­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion when time may be a crit­i­cal fac­tor.

Know­ing where po­ten­tial host crops are en­ables sur­veys to be set up and car­ried out to iden­tify not only where an un­wanted pest is, but just as im­por­tantly where is it is not.

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