The fruit industry has become very complex with the amount of data available from packing and cooling facilities plus increasingly strict export regulations.
“You have to be able to give simple answers to complex questions,” says Gerhard Nel, director at FarSoft Solutions.
Packhouse data are crucial to make on-farm decisions (photos supplied by FarSoft Solutions)
The software and system development company, based in Wellington, aims to provide their clients - packhouses, cooling facilities and exporters - with answers in real-time to make better and quicker decisions about the product quality, packing, sales and logistics. These decisions eventually feed back into farm management.
“At the end of the day the aim is to sell and move fruit in an intelligent and efficient manner,” he notes.
“We’re well-positioned to process such info because of historical production data for each orchard, set against expenses, coupled with income from the market. You get a thorough overview of your expenses and returns on every cultivar and for every orchard.”
Technology makes it possible to look meaningfully at fruit
Their analysis allows a producer to pinpoint problems to specific orchards, even to tell which orchards are going to develop problems a month or two down the line. Clients can identify beforehand which orchards could have the potential for latent defects. This allows for informed handling and storage protocols after harvesting.
“If you compare it to twenty years ago, digital systems have become essential. They’re helping producers more than they might perhaps realise.”
Latent problems in orchards can be identified before fruit reach the packline
“Quality control is an enormous process these days and a lot of emphasis is placed on it, long before the PPECB [Perishable Products Export Control Board] inspector visits. Literally every load on the packhouse goes through the farm’s own quality control team, perhaps one could say to a stricter degree than before.”
Age tracking – closely linked to quality control – has also grown in importance, particularly with fresh produce that is stored for months, such as apples and pears.
Intensive practical intro into packhouse & coldstore flow for new staff
“It’s important that everyone in our team knows the fresh produce industry. Even our software developers need to understand the whole chain really well. In my opinion, you can’t build proper, easily-accessible systems for clients if you don’t know their business thoroughly."
"What we’re doing these days – and I wish I could have done it when I entered the industry – is that when we invite new people to our team, they work for a few weeks at one of our clients. It serves two purposes: the new person learns our software in practice first-hand and from a user viewpoint, while simultaneously becoming acquainted with the inner workings of a packhouse and cold storage. Thus they can see how the software is working and how people are working with the software. Sometimes one gets new ideas to improve it.”
The FarSoft Solutions team