An Australian harvest management software system has received "phenomenal feedback" since it started running two years ago, according to its creators.
South Australian-based Agricultural Picking Technology (APT) launched AgPick to capture and record harvest activities out in the field, but chief executive officer, Henrietta Child says more benefits have since been found.
"AgPick is a software tool that was developed to help horticulture workers to principally manage outdoor picking," she said. "We started by looking at ways to support piece-rate recording and picking activities, but what we found is that our software can easily record all of the outdoor activities that are being done on the farm. So, all the labour, all the maintenance and operational work will also be recorded and managed. It has gone beyond just picking, especially because managing the cost of labour effectively is vital these days. That's where our tool has come into its own."
Ms Child added that the idea was to create a system that is straightforward and simple for farm owners to use, especially in an outdoor environment to record data without complications. Some of the advantages are that operators can predict what is happening in the field much faster, and anticipate what could be coming into the packing shed, and when.
"What sets it apart is that it is really easy to learn and use," she said. "There are two parts to it really. There is an app that can be operated by a phone that uses touch screen recording to allow the user to enter data and record various items such as time bookings and pick counts. Then there is a web portal that links to a database where we report all the data and users can revise and correct anything that has been done in the field. It is a jobs-based system where you set up tasks for the day and you can see the reporting in real-time."
The company has done a lot of work in the berry sector, but APT has been working on solutions for other produce such as grapes and mushrooms.
"Each commodity has different processes, but the philosophy of our software is that it is workflow-driven, and we can implement different workflows that match with different people's needs - even in the same commodity," Ms Child said. "The feedback is stunning really. We had a berry farm start using AgPick this time last year when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. They approached us and we managed to get them up and running in a fortnight. We couldn't travel to the site, so we had to do it by phone. But they told us the system paid for itself in a month and actually saved them. That was fantastic feedback. AgPick has helped them plan their days, reduced stress and saved them money. We are very proud of that, you can't get much better than that."
Ms Child admits that with the effects of COVID-19, farm work has been made unpredictable, especially with people carrying out multiple jobs just to keep the business running effectively. The AgPick system can help keep a track of important information, including who is on the farm for COVID auditors.
"That was quite simply done because it was tied into their operational processes," she said. "We store a lot of history; because of the way that we are keeping data. It means that the information is always there for people to download and extract if they want to. Over time, we will be building historical analysis, so the focus, for now, is putting cost analysis into the system. Not many people have access to information to find out what they were doing this time last year. This will bring it up in five seconds, even down to what each block achieved throughout the years."