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Question: Does RFID work in a cultivation environment?

Yes! Though cultivations have lots of water and machinery emitting radio interference which can cause issues to RFID, modern UHF Class 1 Gen 2 RFID works great in these environments. Even tags laying in the wet soil are usually read, though you will most likely need to be closer than the max read range. Once your cultivation team starts becoming familiar with good tag placement, you will be able to read the tags from distances 20+ feet away.

Question: Can someone outside my cultivation read the RFID tags?

Conceivably, tags can be read out side of your cultivation, but reads are gonna be very limited because walls greatly affect the read range. More importantly, the ID numbers mean nothing without connecting them to the database, so the risk of you broadcasting important cultivation information is eliminated.

Question: How long has RFID been around?

It's widely accepted that RFID had its roots in WWII.  Leon Theremin, best known as the inventor of the electronic music device aptly named the Theremin, also invented the first passive listening device. It was called "The Thing" and hung in the US Embassy for seven years undetected!  Because it was passive, needing electromagnetic energy from an outside source to become energized and activate, it is considered a predecessor of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

Over the years, RFID has gained in popularity as the method for rapid identification of everyday items.  IBM patented the first UHF RFID systems in the early 1990's and this is the foundation of the RFID RAIN standard that we utilize today.

For more information, RFID Journal has a good history, and I credit that article for most of they information in this answer.

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Question: I've heard that RFID and water don't work well together. Is RFID going to work in my cultivation?

It's true RFID tags don't work well in water. They do work well near water! A cultivations reservoirs and irrigation systems represent a considerable amount of water, but they do not cause problems for RFID. A cultivations dense canopy of wet living tissue is no problem for RFID either. Though the canopy looks dense the fact of the matter is that it is mainly air which is great for RFID. Radio frequencies penetrates even the densest canopy with no problems unlike grow lights...or barcode scanners.

Question: What does RFID mean?

RFID is an acronym for Radio Frequency IDentification.

Question: How does RFID work?

To quote WikiPedia (and it's okay since Wikipedia was founded by a librarian's son), "Radio-frequency identification (RFID) uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects.

The tags contain electronically-stored information. Passive tags collect energy from a nearby RFID reader's interrogating radio waves. Active tags have a local power source (such as a battery) and may operate hundreds of meters from the RFID reader.

Unlike a barcode, the tag need not be within the line of sight of the reader, so it may be embedded in the tracked object. RFID is one method of automatic identification and data capture (AIDC).[1]!

We utilize UHF Gen-2 RFID because the antennae can read tags 20+ feet away and passive tags are less expensive. It's also the de facto standard for implementing RFID in supply-chain management."

Question: What is the difference between RFID and barcode scanning?

RFID and barcodes are both ways for a machine to retrieve identification information.  This is called machine-readable coding. Both RFID and Barcodes will typically show an eye-readable identification so humans can read it as well.

What confuses a lot of people is that an RFID tag will typically also have a barcode printed on the outside (just like METRC tags) and you can use a barcode scanner to read the ID but you are in no way utilizing the RFID technology.

Barcodes can be scanned using a laser scanner and by smartphone cameras but in order to accomplish this, you have to properly orient and clean. This will take hours if you are scanning lots of plants at a time and it doesn't save much more time than the "clipboard and pen" method.

RFID tags can read 1,000 tags in a second. With tag read ranges of 20+ feet from an RFID scanner, individual plant tags can quickly be found without touching every plant in your facility. Audits of a cultivation facility can occur in just a few minutes, giving you peace of mind that your inventory is compliant.

Our RFID handheld's read range can be easily controlled so, depending on the use case, staff can identify one, a few, or many plants at a time.

Question: What is an RFID tag made of?

RFID tags usually look like most inventory tags, but they will have an RFID inlay attached. The inlay is comprised of an antenna and an integrated circuit. The antenna is made of a metal foil and the integrated circuit is a tiny piece of a silicon chip no bigger than a pinhead.

Most plant tags, like those sold by METRC, are 2 layers of polyester film with the RFID inlay sandwiched between. This allows the tags to survive the 3+ months they will live in a wet agricultural environment. Plant tags could be made of anything that you can attach an inlay to.

Cultivation Corner

Articles about optimizing cost centers in cannabis cultivations:

  • Grow media water management
  • Labor Costs and managing METRC (coming soon)
  • Nutrient Management (coming soon)
  • Lighting systems (coming soon)

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