The mentality of working smarter - not harder - in the fresh produce industry, is growing, according to a major New Zealand technology solutions company.
ABC Software has two primary solutions; ABCgrower and ABCpacker. Co-owner Sharon Chapman says business decision-makers are looking to invest into smart solutions such as software applications and automation to drive business and financial growth.
"There is a move away from working from dawn to late night, and most of the weekend," Ms Chapman said. "ABCgrower is a web application used on orchard/farm to record harvest and non-harvest worker activities; calculates worker payments; create harvest inventory such as bins or trays or kgs; quality assessments and spray diary. We continue to grow the offering and are currently working on GPS and maps. ABCpacker is for the packhouse and either resides on premise or can be hosted in the cloud. ABCpacker incorporates bin inventory and packing, as well as sales and grower payments. We can also tailor ABCpacker to meet the unique requirements of the packhouse. Our software is simple to use and we have excellent customer service."
ABC’s approach is software on handheld devices, and Ms Chapman adds that one of the major aims and benefits of the technology-based systems is to take the paper out of the farm/orchard, which sometimes can mean working 70 hours a week to get everything done.
"Paper means someone has to write it down, someone else has to interpret what has been written, check it and record it," she said. "We often see data duplication, that is recorded into one system and then re-entered into another system in a different format. When data is recorded digitally out on the farm/orchard, right where the workers are, some data checks can be enforced at that time, increasing accuracy. There is no interpretation of handwriting. Information is immediately available to the business. There is no duplication of data. There are significant gains in efficiency, accuracy and traceability."
ABCgrower is being used on orchards in NZ and Australia across table grapes, cherries, berries, citrus, apples, summer fruit, kiwifruit and avocados. Orchards sizes range from 20ha to 500ha. It is also used in cool store for bin inventory management. The packhouse software, ABCpacker, is also in use in NZ and Australia for cherries, citrus, apples, summer fruit and avocados.
The systems themselves are straightforward, meaning it is easy for any fruit or vegetable business to adopt, according to Ms Chapman, who says the collection of data is an essential part of orchard management and compliance reporting."
"We spend considerable time and effort to make it easy for the user and keep the complexities ‘under the bonnet’. Always the biggest challenge is introducing technology and change into an existing operation. There is always a period of pain whilst the organisation learns new ways of working with the technology. But once learnt, the benefits are extensive and are delivered every day."
ABC Software started 23 years ago, as a custom software company, and have worked with packhouses in New Zealand and Australia for over 20 years, becoming specialists in providing software solutions to the horticulture sector.
"Orchardists are seeing how the use of technology can improve accuracy and efficiency and give real-time visibility to business information," Ms Chapman said. "They know technology can bring significant gains and this is what our software solutions deliver."