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Smart Olives: Greek Farmers Use GPS to Track Olive Theft

Olives thefts
GPS chip technology in the shape of olives to track thefts. Credit: AMNA

Farmers on Crete have begun using GPS chip technology in the shape of olives hung on trees to deal with the rising theft of olives during the current harvest season.

Several cases of theft have been reported on Crete and elsewhere in Greece in recent weeks, as the price of the “liquid gold,” an essential part of culture and cuisine in the country, skyrockets.

Earlier in October, tons of olive oil were stolen from a warehouse in Northern Greece. The theft occurred in an olive oil farming cooperative in Polygyros, Halkidiki, where approximately two hundred local producers are registered.

Officials say that fifty-two tons of olive oil were stolen from the warehouse with the damage exceeding 370,000 euros ($388,000).

Vice-president of the Association of Farming Cooperatives of Heraklion Myros Hiletzakis told Athens-Macedonian News Agency (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 [two] 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,” Hiletzakis explained.

How the gadget works to prevent theft of olives

The association had purchased four GPS chip olives and tested them successfully, he said. The gadget “is connected to a cell phone 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 explained.

“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. The chip is waterproof, and can even be placed within olive oil containers, he added.

Farmers on Crete, a major olive oil producer in Greece, are very interested in this and hope to receive the first order shortly for the current ongoing olive oil season since thefts have risen steadily.

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

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

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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