What is traceability and why is it needed?

Tracing products is an important aspect of supply chain management and resilience.  There are varying motivations for understanding the origin of products. In some industries, such as the mining sector in Rwanda, traceability is a regulatory requirement.  Elsewhere it is a way of monitoring the impact of initiatives, such as climate-smart agriculture or livelihood improvement programs with smallholder farmers.  In Malaysia, our clients use tracing tools to tackle deforestation in the palm oil sector, which improves the sustainability of the product and reduces brand risk. In other instances, tracing data is used to support brand promises about the origin of a product, especially high-end goods claiming single origin.  These examples highlight the fact that “Traceability” has become a word frequently used in respect to varying objectives, so what does it actually mean?

There are different ‘levels’ of traceability.  For some, traceability is the ability to trace the chain of custody for a product back to its origin.  It is knowing that this bag of coffee was produced by that farmer.  This is particularly important where the productivity of individual farmers is being monitored or where there are risks in the supply chain surrounding the conditions and circumstances in which goods are produced, such as child-labour and deforestation.  For others tracing to a community or farmer organisation level is sufficient, for example assessing the impact of community self-help groups or informing a customer of the region in which their cocoa was produced.  However, tracing to this level in developing countries can be difficult, especially when multiple stakeholders and middle men are involved.

In addition to tracing products, traceability can also be used as a term to describe the tracing of finance and effort.  For example, many development projects want to trace resources provided to farmers, whether this is the provision of inputs, knowledge (i.e. training), or finances.  An example of this type of tracing is a project we are working on with coffee farmers in Uganda.

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At GeoT, we have developed a system that allows customers to know specifically where their goods come from and connect this with information about the production processes.  This allows companies and development initiatives to adopt a holistic approach to supply chain management, resilience and sustainability.  The design of investment initiatives into smallholder farmers can be determined through the data collected on their practices, initiatives can then be monitored through the collection of project data (such as records of training, input distribution, etc), and the impact of an initiative assessed through a combination of data collection (to see how practices have changed) and traceability (to monitor the quality and quantity of the produce).

So, to answer the initial question, the exact definition of traceability depends on what the motivation is for it.  As with so much, the level of traceability adopted will depend on what is required to achieve the traceability objective, taking into consideration the parameters of price, time and quality.  Whatever system specifications are implemented, a tracing system should result in greater knowledge, trust, and accountability along the supply chain.


Traceability for Palm Oil now Commercially Available

Over the last two years Geotraceability has been working with the largest names in the palm oil sector to develop a ground-breaking software solution to assist with some of the industry’s key sourcing challenges.

Geotraceability’s purpose is to better integrate small-scale farmers in global supply chains. We do this by providing tools to, improve supplier relationship management, deliver traceability, increase FFB volume and quality for the mill, then, using the same data, we can simultaneously produce individualised Farm Business Plans, to improve smallholder productivity and livelihoods.


Our approach involves adapting and configuring the Geotraceability system according to your needs and the processes which already exist in your business. We then combine this with our specialist in-house support and training services, to offer cost-effective and scalable solutions for;


  • Accurate GPS farm mapping
  • Farmer surveys on mobile Apps

  • FFB supplier quality management & analysis

  • Bespoke FFB traceability systems from field-to-mill

  • Live dashboards with total system synchronisation

  • Tailored productivity improvement plans for growers

Following the completion of a successful prototype, we can now offer this solution at a very attractive commercial rate both for initial set-up and on-going cost.

See the GeoT for palm oil briefing for more information and please get in touch if you’d like to see a demo of the solution or have any questions.

Please also note that Geotraceability will be at the upcoming RSPO EU Roundtable in London, June 12-13th, 2017, and we’d be happy to arrange a meeting with you in person.

Innovative Smallholder Fresh Fruit Bunch Traceability System Improves Palm Oil Supply Chain Transparency

Canada, 8 November 2016 - GeoTraceability, Wilmar International Limited (Wilmar) and Wild Asia announced today that the first phase in the development of a new smallholder traceability system is successfully completed. The new system enables mills to map their smallholder supply base and trace smallholder fresh fruit bunch (FFB) deliveries from the mills back to their farms. A key innovation in this project is the ability to provide smallholders with agronomic recommendations from mills and supporting organisations for increasing productivity, as part of their participation in the traceability system.

This project, supported by IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), is currently piloted in Wilmar’s Sapi Plantation in Sabah, Malaysia. The ability to trace smallholder FFB supply is critical to Wilmar in ensuring compliance by its third-party mill suppliers, and their independent smallholder suppliers with its No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation policy. Since July 2016, more than 90% of the smallholder supply base of the mill has been surveyed and mapped, with 1,400 traceable deliveries of smallholder FFB recorded. The next steps in the project are to roll out the system to an additional Wilmar-owned mill as well as a third-party supplier mill, both in Sabah.

Jeremy Goon, Wilmar’s Chief Sustainability Officer, said, “Smallholders are a key stakeholder group in our pursuit of a sustainable and transparent supply chain. We have committed substantial resources to empowering smallholders to improve their livelihoods and to ensure they share in the benefits of oil palm development.

"Our collaboration with GeoTraceability and Wild Asia to develop this smallholder specific traceability tool is a win-win for the industry and smallholders.

"Benefiting from agronomic expertise is an important incentive that will further strengthen sustainability take-up amongst smallholder producers. We hope this tool can help facilitate the traceability agenda of our external mill suppliers and the wider industry.”

Dr. Reza Azmi, Executive Director and Founder at Wild Asia said, “Our Wild Asia Group Scheme (WAGS) is a programme to promote traceability and better production among groups of small independent palm oil producers. Systematic, electronic data on the small producers means that we can accelerate our work, and that our agronomists can deliver individualised support to our group members.

"More importantly, we want to be able to empower local producers with tools that can provide meaningful insights to their own production data.”

Pierre Courtemanche, Chief Executive Officer at GeoTraceability, said, “Our software and training is designed to support mills, NGOs, development agencies and Governments in better delivery of support to smallholders. This combination of tools supports a ‘New Deal’ for farmers: allow us to use your data to improve transparency and you’ll receive improved support services.”

GeoTraceability’s Digital Agronomist is a new software technology which allows the delivery of agronomists’ expertise to each individual smallholder farmer, and his or her fields. The agronomic recommendations for increasing smallholder productivity are compiled in individual “Farm Business Plans”, which can be further supported with field-input credit, training and ultimately Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Group certification. This package of opportunities to improve productivity and profitability for smallholder farmers presents a compelling alternative path to the farm expansion model.

IDH has been working with industry actors to coordinate and accelerate progress on traceability since 2014 and is supporting platforms such as GeoTraceability as critical innovations on the path to sustainability. IDH is supporting the project financially and has informed project design with the objective of maximising lessons learned that may be of value to the wider industry.


As a leading agribusiness group, Wilmar recognises we have a fundamental role to play in developing quality products required by the world while ensuring a responsible and sustainable manner of production. We adopt a holistic approach to sustainability that is fully integrated with our business model. Guided by the philosophy that our business must enhance stakeholder value while minimising our environmental footprint, our business practices are aligned with universally acceptable social and environmental standards. Wilmar’s No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation policy underpins our aspiration to make a positive impact and drive transformation across the palm oil industry.   

For more information, go to


WAGS (Wild Asia Group Scheme) is an initiative of social enterprise Wild Asia. As a methodology, it has been developed from the ground-up, to addresses the challenges of traceability in the palm oil supply chain, to understand the challenges palm oil suppliers face to meet “zero deforestation” commitments and challenges of small producers in enhancing their productivity and best management practices. Visit for more information.


IDH convenes companies, CSOs, governments and others in public-private partnerships. Driving the joint design, co-funding and prototyping of economically viable approaches to realize green and inclusive growth at scale in commodity sectors and sourcing areas. Approaches are designed to drive sustainability from niche to norm, delivering impact on the Sustainable Development Goals. Impact focuses on deforestation, living incomes and living wages, working conditions, responsible agrochemicals management, and gender. IDH is supported by multiple European governments, including institutional donors: SECO, DANIDA and BUZA and over 500 companies, CSOs, financial institutions, producer organizations and governments in 11 sectors and 11 landscapes in over 50 countries worldwide.



GeoTraceability: Steven Ripley, Head of Palm Oil,

Wilmar International Limited: Iris Chan, Corporate Communications,

Wild Asia: Smita Jairam, Technical Manager, 

IDH: Reuben Blackie, Program Manager,

The 14th Annual Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil

GeoTraceability will be at the 14th Annual Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil, 7-10 November, 2016, Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand.

Pierre Courtemanche, GeoTraceability’s CEO, will be one of the speakers on November 8 taking part in Preparatory Cluster 2 discussing ‘How Legal and Traceable are your Palm Fresh Fruit Bunches?’.


This will be an opportunity to brief the participants on the progress made by GeoTraceability and its partners Wilmar and Wild Asia on the implementation of an industry first FFB traceability system in Beluran, Sabah State, Malaysia.  This project supported by the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) aims to collect and use digital data on smallholder producers to engage with them, trace their supply and support them to improve their productivity.

Pierre will use this case study to explain how appropriate technology can help engaging smallholder producers in complex supply chains.

To learn more, consult this web site at:

Our Solution for the Mining Sector

GeoT is now offering it’s traceability solution adapted to the context of mining sector in the African Great Lake Region. In the OCDE meeting last week in Kigali, GeoT presentation by Gerald Beaulieu was well received and appreciated it raised interest of a large number mining sector stakeholders.

GeoT is currently implemented in several mine site in Uganda and DRC to offer traceability to address the conflict mineral issues in the 3T and Gold. The traceability is a core component of the Regional Certification Mechanisms of the ICGLR and OECD guidelines. GeoT is offering an innovative way for tracing digitally the minerals across the supply chain from the miners to the export providing a user friendly tool to overview the mining activities on site and provide detailed reports on the origin of a shipment.

In order to present our solution to a larger audience of stakeholder GeoT has developed a one pager (Mining sector pdf) to introduce and present the key features of the solution. GeoT is currently finalizing agreements with leading implementing organizations and supply chain actors to upscale across the region.