Cretan farmers and cooperatives have adopted GPS technology to combat the increasing theft of olives during the current harvest season.
The Vice-president of the Association of Farming Cooperatives of Iraklio, Myros Hiletzakis, shared with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency that this innovative approach, involving silicon-made decoy olives equipped with tracking technology, was initially successful in Spain back in 2019. Following a successful trial on Crete, farmers decided to implement it.
Hiletzakis explained, “The Spaniards discovered this solution in 2019 when their production reached a record 2 million tons. Olive oil had become a prime target for thieves who would either sneak into orchards at night to shake olive-laden trees with sticks or, even worse, cut down entire branches laden with olives, transporting them to storage locations where they would harvest the olives, ultimately impacting the trees’ productivity.”
The association procured four trackable olives and successfully tested them. Hiletzakis clarified, “The device is connected to a mobile phone through an application. When the bait is removed from the tree, a message is sent to the owner within a distance of three to four meters, notifying them of the removal.” He added, “We are collaborating with a company to develop an app that will trace the complete GPS journey, including when and where it was removed, its trajectory, and its final location. The microchip is waterproof and can even be placed inside olive oil containers.”
Farmers in Crete, a major olive oil producer in Greece, have shown significant interest in this technology and anticipate placing their first orders shortly, given the steady rise in thefts.
Hiletzakis stressed the importance of safeguarding olive oil by saying, “We must protect olive oil by all available means. Incidents of theft have increased, particularly during the economic crisis, especially now when olive oil’s value rivals that of gold due to pricing. Cretan producers have been known to stay vigilant throughout the night during high-yield years to prevent theft. To give you an idea, currently, 100 kilos of oil cost 1,000 euros.”
Furthermore, the association is actively working to determine the overall number of GPS locators needed per association or cooperative in Crete to determine the final cost and the quantity of units to be ordered for more producers in the future. [AMNA]