All-in-one digital system for animal health and food safety

Article, 06.05.2021

In 2021, Georgia will have its first ever digital National Animal Identification and Traceability System (NAITS). While the name is quite self-explanatory, in practical terms it means permanent identification and traceability ‘from farm to fork’. The phrase “from farm to fork” was coined for a system of identification of animal products back to farm premises.  Once fully implemented, this real-time online database of animals will allow Georgian policy-makers to act quickly in case of disease outbreaks and also, to introduce more tailored policies for the benefit of the sector. 

a little cuff with an eartag
Farm animals will wear an eartag to ease registration in the database ©SCO South Caucasus

When the SDC talks about NAITS, it talks about digitalization

In a time when consumers demand transparency and visibility in all processes, animal identification and recording systems seems to be unparalleled management tools in animal health and food safety for countries like Georgia, where high proportion of rangeland and pastures makes livestock an important component of the national agricultural economy and rural livelihood.

In 2016, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and ADC (Austrian Development Cooperation) joined hands with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in a bid to support Georgia in developing digital animal identification and traceability systems with all technical features to record and monitor data on farm holdings and various animals. By virtue of the National Identification and Traceability Systems (NAITS) project, Georgia can now boast a digital system of its own, the system which is flexible, accessible, effective and modern that is also fully compatible with the EU requirements on traceability and food safety.

From Farm to Fork

The NAITS project was designed to help farmers, producers and relevant government agencies, such as the National Food Agency (NFA), coordinate policies pertaining to animal health more effectively. The system helps the NFA to keep a real-time data on farm animals and with this, contain disease outbreaks more effectively. The digital system also enables an animal product to be traced back to animal’s farm of origin - from farm to fork-and in case of disease outbreak take necessary swift measures. This system ultimately serves for ensuring the food safety in the country and also, helps to eventually boost meat export potential to the EU countries, which has more stringent rules on imports of animal origin.

Setting up a digital system is just one technical aspect of the project. For the system to succeed and prove to be functional and sustainable, smooth cooperation from farmers, slaughterhouses and veterinarians need to take place so that new-born farm animals are reflected in the system, their movement properly registered and de-registered in slaughterhouses in due time.  For this to function properly, legal framework for the implementation and enforcement of animal identification and traceability was updated, NFA’s personnel, 125 government veterinarians and 44 veterinary inspectors supported by 600 private veterinarians were trained on using and complying to the system.  

Ensuring cooperation from all the stakeholders for keeping a real-time data on animals is a lengthy process and apart from trainings and equipping, adequate incentive mechanisms need to be put in place so that all involved stakeholders are engaged in using the digital system.  The second phase of the project will focus more on wider stakeholder engagement and incentive mechanisms, including policy dialogue to foster sustainable handover of the project to the NFA.

“NFA’s veterinarians are actively involved in the implementation of project activities. Measures undertaken so far have contributed to the improvement of animal identification, as well as traceability of both animals and animal products. The next phase of the project will be vital for a successful completion of the initiated process. Animal identification and traceability is an important and integral part of ‘from farm to fork’ production chain ultimately contributing to rooting high standards, to improving export potential and competitiveness of Georgian products,” says deputy head of the NFA, Vasil Basiladze.

International outreach

The project is being implemented in Georgia; however, the system and its impact is not limited to the geographical borders of the country. The functional animal identification and traceability system will considerably enhance access to regional markets of live animals and animal products. In this respect, the project will explore the avenues for developing compatible systems in Armenia and Azerbaijan. In the meantime though, the project made its name in far country of North Macedonia. The officials of the Republic have requested the project to facilitate the knowledge exchange on Georgian NAITS with a view to update the existing system currently in place.