Technology helps trace pickers during pandemic

AgPick - a harvest management system developed by South Australia’s Agricultural Picking Technology (APT) to capture harvest activities electronically - is proving its worth as an auditing tool during COVID-19 restrictions.

APT chief executive officer Henrietta Child said AgPick, which captures and reports on field activities and helps managers track, analyse and improve crop outcomes, was also helping producers record picker movements under COVID-19-safe auditing practices.

Raspberry and blueberry producer and strawberry plug plant propagator, Paul Dydula of Paradise Fruits Enterprise Pty Ltd and Paradise Berry Propagators implemented AgPick at his Caboolture, Queensland businesses during COVID-19 lockdown in March. It was a decision which had already paid for itself, he said.

“We were already investigating AgPick to create efficiencies and improve record keeping. COVID-19-safe protocols (including daily temperature checks) accelerated that decision. Within two weeks, AgPick was installed and keeping track of workers’ attendance and location,” he said.

AgPick scans a picker's ID and matches it to the pickers activities, including location on farm. 

Ensuring harvests continue in uncertainty
“It’s helped us meet auditing and Health Department requirements easily. Each picker is assigned an ID card. In the event where we might have two teams working in different areas – and we have the need to isolate one individual, or one team – we can continue the harvest with the other team. That would have been so much more difficult with the previous paper-based system.

“AgPick records when pickers clock on and off, what they pick and where they are, with real time data which was the selling point for us. Before that, we would have to go into the paddock to see what was happening. Anyone who can operate a smart phone can use it, it’s that simple – and we’ve never lost data,” Mr Dydula said.

He said since implementing AgPick, he had found more use for the system. "We initially looked at it for berry production but quickly realised, it would also work across all operations," he said.

APT initially designed AgPick to provide growers with better visibility and control over harvest activities via hand-held Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scanners.

It has since been customised to record all outdoor activities including seasonal picker payroll reconciliation, traceability, on-farm crop management costs and yield comparisons, Ms Child said. “Producers want to look at more than picking outcomes, move away from paper records and have the flexibility to access information easily and remotely via any device,” 

“The system supports flexible workflows and can be configured for different produce lines. It captures key data ranging from grade variables and seasonal payroll differences such as piece-rates to hourly rates, depending on the time of year and volume to be picked. It also counts waste and captures information such as break times – paid and unpaid – for accurate payment.”

Flexibility in a changing world
Ms Child said the system handled and recorded all associated labour costs as well as harvest management costs such as pruning, weeding, spraying and more. Information was calculated daily and compared costs spent on a block with yield from that block.

"It operates on flexible workflows and is not a one-size-fits-all-approach. Being flexible in a COVID-19 environment is more important than ever," she said.

AgPick was launched in 2017 by Ms Child and APT chief technology officer Tony Drake. Ms Child’s experience is in the IT industry, implementing software and training and mentoring early stage technology companies. Mr Drake’s background is in developing software knowledge systems for the wine and beverage industry.

For more information:
Henrietta Child
Agricultural Picking Technology
Tel: +61 404 840449 

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