Australian harvest management software system, Agricultural Picking Technology (AgPick) has just completed the latest successful implementation of its systems at a Tasmanian blueberry farm.
The South Australian-based AgPick Chief Executive Officer, Henrietta Child says Tru-Blu Berries, based in Lymington, Tasmania came to them wanting an affordable solution, after they were unable to proceed with their original system plans with another provider due to an unforeseen situation.
"Fundamentally, they are using our weighing system, so pick by weight workflow, so they are capturing weights off the scales," Ms. Child said. "They are weighing three buckets at a time, capture the weight, put the count in and keep a record of what the pickers are doing. On top of that, what people are finding difficult is keeping track of picker start and finish times; our system can do that either at the whole farm level or at a block level, it's up to the grower. Tru-Blu are using it to record time, calculate the piece rate, and calculate top-ups. Sharon (Keetch) is a very dynamic blueberry farmer who is interested in making improvements in how she wants to work, so she has been a pleasure to work with. Overall, it has been an interesting time for us because we started out talking to people who didn't have anything and wanted a system; now we are talking to people who have a system but think ours is easier to use, so they are swapping over to it. That has been an exciting development for us, and really has proven what we thought all along, that we should focus on the ease of use."
Photo: Kit Crawford of AgPick with Sharon Keetch of Tru-Blu (courtesy: AquaPR)
While most farms and fruits do have a set of basic shared needs from the system, the most important factor that AgPick focuses on, according to Ms Child, is that the company does not assume it knows the entire process of the individual farm, without talking to the grower. She says the software is configurable to each farm, and they can set up a different workflow quickly and successfully, across a growing range of fruit and vegetable categories.
"The berries are a long season, unlike other fruits such as cherries, which are all over in a flash," she said. "In terms of workforce, berry workers seem to be more stable in that they work for longer periods. Berry growers seem to be very precise and ordered in what they do, and want to manage their costs in a structured way. I know every farmer does this in some way, but as this is a longer season, every day needs to be managed very well and precisely to ensure operations run smoothly in the long run. But there are different processes, even within the berry category; for example, strawberries seem to be picked straight into punnets these days, because it saves a lot of costs in the packhouse. So, they may pick into a tray full of punnets and they go on to have the lid put on in the packhouse and workers get paid on trays or punnets, while blueberries tend to be picked into buckets and the pickers get paid on weight mostly."
Coming up, AgPick has an agreement with Bowen Gumlu Growers Association (BGGA) to run trials with some of the local vegetable growers in their association, and both organisations are looking for growers to recruit who are interested in adopting this technology on their farms. While Ms Child says her company would be looking for partners in any region to run trials, as she is finding there is still a large number of people who still fully do not understand or adapted to changes to worker payment legislation.
"The exciting thing is that we are not just expanding the range of fruits that we are working with, but the way of doing things that suit the individual grower," Ms Child said. "We are scanning RFID tags, barcodes, QR Codes and using direct touch-screen entry. We do all of those things at different times, depending on the workflow numbers and how they want to operate. As a company, we are excited because we really enjoy working with the growers. It is a really lovely industry to be involved in."
For more information
Agricultural Picking Technology
Phone: +61 8 7127 1095