Japan’s Aomori Prefecture produces almost all of the apples that are sent out-of-country for export. In a time when there is a clamor for safer food – especially from Japan – the Aomori prefectural government and local apple farmers have found an ingenious way to use the Quick Response barcode system, better known as QR codes, to show that Aomori apples are safe to eat.

QR codes were introduced in 1994, incidentally also in Japan by a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp., but its usage is generally in decline. It reached its heyday when Blackberry smartphones (also arguably in decline?) used them as a quick way to transfer contact information from phone to phone. Be that as it may, these export quality Aomori apples now have their own individual QR codes per apple, which when scanned by a consumer through a QR code reader on their smartphone will show them the apple’s growth and production history – which farm the apple came from and how it was cared for, including information on how often pesticides were used. It even comes with a photo and message from the farmer who grew the fruit, a great touch that will make consumers feel “connected” with the person who actually made it possible for us to enjoy the apple. This information will be available in Japanese, Chinese and English.

This new project is set to start possibly during the harvest season next autumn, with farmers attaching QR code stickers on apples bound for Taiwan, the main export destination for Japanese apples. Each individual apple – even if harvested from the same tree – will get its own unique code, a rare production practice in today’s manufacturing environment. The new system will not only help out consumers, it will also allow the prefectural government and apple farmers to follow the distribution routes of the exported apples.

Publication date: 12/19/2013