Counterfeiters stopped in their tracks by Laava’s Smart Fingerprints

15 Jun 2020

Tasmanian cherry grower Reid Fruits has foiled multiple counterfeiting attempts during the 2019/20 cherry season, thanks to Laava’s innovative Smart Fingerprints.

The patented technology was incorporated on over 340,000 Reid Fruits cherry boxes bound for 20 markets. Around 150,000 boxes were sent to China, the company’s largest export market and where it has historically encountered significant brand integrity challenges.

‘Our back-end system detected eight attempts to copy the Smart Fingerprints in the first week of Reid Fruits boxes appearing in the Chinese market,’ says Gavin Ger, Laava’s Commercial Director and joint CEO.

‘Once the counterfeiters realised they couldn’t hack the Laava Fingerprint the way they had QR codes the year before, there was a huge reduction in attempts, with only another two attempts the rest of the season.

‘It’s too early to declare victory, but from our analysis, it looks like they mostly moved on.’

Reid Fruits was the first Australian producer to export cherries to China, South Korea and Japan, and has developed longstanding customer partnerships in over 20 countries. The company knows Chinese consumers in particular are increasingly concerned about authenticity and have a very strong appetite for product information and brand stories.

‘We were immediately impressed by what Laava had developed and the ability of the Laava Smart Fingerprint to combine authentication with a strong customer engagement capability, in a more secure way than past approaches we had trialled,’ says Tony Coad, Manager, Marketing and Sales, Reid Fruits.

‘Laava also had the capacity to roll out the Smart Fingerprint labels on all our production for the 2019/20 season. The technology was fairly seamless to implement into our normal packing operations, which was a strong point for us. We have been very impressed with the results from this initial pilot which showed us the potential of the technology, and we are presently working with Laava to consider additional features we can incorporate for the 2020/21 season.

‘We have not found any other comparable solution that can help us achieve our product integrity objectives, while helping us tell our brand story – at a commercially relevant price point, and without major changes to our operations.’

Next-level technology

Unlike QR codes, each Laava Smart Fingerprint is unique and can only be generated and read using the secure Laava platform – yet they work on any smartphone. When the code is scanned, Laava’s technology compares the image of that code against its database, using an array of advanced optically-based technology. Only when it finds a match will it authenticate the product.

‘That allows us to immediately identify cases where someone has tried to copy or simply pass off a code that looks like one of ours as a legitimate Laava Smart Fingerprint,’ says Ger. ‘This same secure process allows brands to enforce business rules, such as checking the number of scans, geography or other business rules.

‘We can also integrate directly with leading traceability platforms to add even greater levels of sophistication, and enrich the data for consumers, to provide additional insights.’

In Reid Fruits case, once a suspected ‘bad actor’ had triggered the business rules set by Reid Fruits, the Laava system automatically shut down the Laava Fingerprint.

‘This season, consumers scanning a Laava Fingerprint which exceeded the business rules set by Reid Fruits received a message saying the product was a ‘suspected counterfeit’, and also received support information provide by Reid Fruits,’ says Ger.

Reid Fruits briefed its distributors and wholesalers prior to the boxes appearing for sale, informing them that only boxes with the Laava Smart Fingerprints were genuine and that they should only be scanned with the Laava web-app or WeChat mini program.

Ger believes this education campaign boosted the number of scans. ‘The scan rate was three times higher than what we’d anticipated, largely due to the work Reid Fruits did to raise awareness in their distribution network,’ says Ger.

‘We believe there is great scope to get the scan rates even higher, through a combination of greater consumer awareness building, and product enhancements which we are working closely with Reid Fruits to tailor to their needs.’

Laava is investing deeply to enhance security and brand marketing features to continually raise the bar. ‘By next year’s cherry season, the Laava scanner will be able to be directly integrated within the websites and WeChat mini programs used by our customers for easier scanning, and to reinforce their own online presences,’ says Ger.

Laava’s pilot with Reid Fruits has caught the attention of other exporters and industry. A well-known New South Wales-based business deployed the Laava technology on its export cartons just over a week after seeing the Laava Smart Fingerprints on Reid Fruits’ cherry boxes in the Sydney Growers market – such is the ease and speed of deploying Laava.

Laava is also working with Citrus Australia and blockchain specialist Trust Provenance to improve the traceability of citrus exports. The $200,000 pilot project is funded by Agriculture Victoria, and aims to demonstrate how traceability can be applied to a horticultural business in real time.

In addition to Trust Provenance, Laava has developed consortium partnership models with leading Australian traceability and provenance assurance businesses including Fresh Supply Co, Source Certain International, BeefLedger and Geora.

Laava is also partnering with packaging and printing technology companies, including Multi-Color Labels, Matthews Identification Solutions, and Sydney’s Foxcil Specialist Printing. Several more partnerships are under development.

‘Partnering is intrinsic to Laava. None of us can deliver everything exporters need, but together, we create powerful solutions,’ says Ger. ‘Because Laava is so easy and fast to deploy, without disrupting packing operations, we provide a great first step for brands seeking to digitally enable the trust that’s already in their brands. We just help those brands tell their stories in trusted ways.’

A solution with diverse applications

According to Ger, the Laava technology has wide-ranging uses beyond the agricultural industry.

‘We’re very proud to be working with IndigiLedger, an Indigenous-owned blockchain platform developed with Queensland University of Technology,’ says Ger.

‘IndigiLedger is a leading community-based organisation that is adding tremendous long-term value to local communities and stakeholders. Deploying Laava within IndigiLedger’s trust ecosystem will help establish the authenticity of Indigenous artworks and products, and help tell the amazing stories of the artists who made them, as well as the land itself. We know we’re playing a small part in this process, but it’s incredibly validating and energising for our team, and we’re just at the start of this exciting journey.’

Wine is a well-known target for counterfeiters, as well as representing a segment where winemakers are keen to tell the stories of the land, the people, and the processes which make their wines special.

The Hunter Valley’s Tamburlaine Organic Wines is a Laava client, having recommitted to working with Laava for 2020 locally and for exports, after a successful initial trial. Other wine clients are following suit, with a major global retailer about to launch the first Australian retail-based Laava-powered wine label in Australian supermarkets. Another boutique Barossa Valley winemaker, Hayes Family Wines, has also recommitted for 2020 in Australia and for export, following a successful trial.

Laava’s Australian success has attracted attention from overseas companies keen to explore the company’s technology.

‘Our major launch focus has been on promoting Australia’s food and wine exporters, to prove the value of investments in integrity systems and to help Australian exporters build their brands and engage with consumers.’ says Ger. ‘While the focus is strongly local, we understand Laava has already appeared on the radars of many global leaders. Stay tuned!’

Visit www.austrade.gov.au/ag40 for more information on Australia’s agtech and foodtech capabilities, or call Austrade on 13 28 78 or email info@austrade.gov.au for more information.