'Smart' olives use GPS technology to track olive theft on Crete

smart olives

Cretan farmers and cooperatives have begun using GPS chip technology in the shape of olives that are hung on trees to deal with the rising theft of olives during the current harvest season.

Vice-president of the Association of Farming Cooperatives of Iraklio Myros Hiletzakis told AMNA that the method was used successfully in Spain in 2019, and farmers on Crete tested it successfully before deciding to order it.

"The Spaniards found this solution in 2019, a year their production reached 2 million tons," Hiletzakis says. "The olive oil became at the time the focus of conmen who either stole into orchards at night and beat olive-laden trees with sticks, or - worse - they cut down large branches full of olives, transferring them to storage spaces and harvesting the olives there, with repercussions on the production capability of the trees."

He said the Association had purchased four GPS chip 'olives' and tried them successfully. The gadget "is connected to a cellphone through an application, and when the 'olive' is removed from the tree, three or four meters away, a message is sent, notifying the owner that it has been removed," Hiletzakis explains.

"We are working on a proposal with a company for an app that will track the entire path, the entire process of the GPS: from where it was removed and at what time, what its path was, and where it ended up."

He added that the chip is waterproof and can be placed even inside olive oil containers.

Farmers on Crete - a major olive oil producer in Greece - are very interested in it and hope to receive the first order shortly for the ongoing olive oil season since thefts have risen steadily since Greece's economic crises began.

"We must protect the olive oil in any way possible. The incidents of theft have increased following the economic crisis, especially now that olive oil has become as dear as gold due to pricing," Hiletzakis said.

"Producers on Crete have been known to stay awake through the night during large-crop years to prevent theft. Let me remind you that 100 kilos of oil cost 1,000 euros at this time."

The Association, he added, is also trying to find out how many GPS devices Crete might need overall per association or cooperative to figure out the final cost and number of items to be ordered for more producers in the future.

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