Australian wool bales leap towards the future with AWEX’s eBale rollout

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Stock Journal Feature, August 2023

Author: Katyana Armen, Australian Wool Exchange Ltd

On July 1, the Australian wool industry took its next step leading the world in wool traceability technology with the much-anticipated rollout of the eBale program led by the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX).

The program sees Australian wool bales move to eBales, that come pre-embedded with RFID chips and matching QR codes to hold unique identification, allowing for digitised traceability through the supply chain. 

 eBale technology makes it easier and faster for the ‘source of truth’ on farm to be traced through the supply chain and takes advantage of the increasing use of electronic (non-paper) Wool Classer’s Specifications; that is, WoolClip (also provided by AWEX). 

 The use of WoolClip reduces information errors and reworks, increases speed to market and will help with quality assurance, biosecurity management and progressively automated logistics and warehousing. Once eBales are in place, the Australian Wool industry will see itself at the leading edge of increasingly digitised end user needs, as more brands seek to tell traceability stories ‘from sheep to shop’ and supports those brands focusing on sustainability credentials such as those choosing to source wool from SustainaWOOL grower members. 

 The eBale rollout is a result of a 10-year project led by AWEX’s Technical Project lead Dr Kerry Hansford, who worked to find a low-cost RFID solution suitable for the wool bale’s unique supply chain environment, including wool under high pressure, moisture, metal, various forms of handling and was user-friendly for eventual automated or manual RFID chip scanning. 

Rigorous testing was done to ensure the solution worked in various supply chains, including international test shipping to mills in Europe and China, with fantastic feedback received on the benefits this unlocks for customers. 

 From July 1, 2023, only eBale packs with RFID/QR Code labels are being imported into Australia, with AWEX committing to purchasing 5 million RFIDs, equivalent to 2-3 years of wool packs to help fast track the adoption of eBale and improve Australia’s wool traceability credentials. 

 Growers can contact their wool pack supplier to find out more about their eBale stock. RFID/QR Code tags are also available for purchase at a cost of $0.88ea to ‘retrofit’ existing non-eBale packs for use on farm or in a warehouse, available through AWEX (and some brokers).

‘Non-eBale packs’ may still be used into the future with no end date for their use. Teams are working on processes to enable ‘old non-eBale packs’ to be integrated into the digital systems that will run on eBale technology in future. 

 “AWEX is proud to help fast forward the traceability capability of the Australian Wool industry, giving our customers what they are asking for in terms of digitised traceability, and quality assurance.” Mark Grave, AWEX CEO.