Scanner streamlines labour management

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South Australian company Agricultural Picking Technology (APT) and its AgPick scanner is streamlining production operations.

The AgPick hand-held scanner during a strawberry harvest
AgPick's hand-held scanner in action during the strawberry harvest at Piñata Farms, Stanthorpe, Queensland

Launched last year, the AgPick is a hand-operated radio frequency identification harvesting system that provides farming organisations like fruit farms with data showing pick rates and total earnings.

Designed with improvements to labour management in mind, the AgPick is also enabling producers who manage their own labour to transition from hourly rates to piecework rates though an ‘easy’ payroll integration.

"AgPick’s hand-held scanners accurately record the number of vessels picked and match that number to the right picker, in the field," APT CEO Henrietta Child says.

"The data is uploaded to a live feed via the cloud so producers can see what’s happening during harvest, what blocks are being picked or if the harvest has finished. It records how many pickers worked and what they picked, so they can be paid accurately for their day’s work – it takes paperwork out of the paddock."

Child says the model provides a high level of worker visibility as well as providing producers with greater autonomy over harvest decision making.

"Producers are able to see efficiencies, streamline their operations and save money," she says. "The tool provides what-if analysis to help calculate and adjust piece rates based on actual picking data – it also stores year on year yield data so they can see the impact of improvements on a block and make adjustments accordingly."

Child says the idea for AgPick sprung from growers experiencing difficulties in measuring labour costs.

"Growers told us it was hard to measure the labour costs for a particular block because there’s currently no automated way of doing that.

"When we started developing AgPick about two years ago, there was very little piece-rate management technology around globally and products varied from being very basic and clunky to simple counting apps," she adds.

"An RFID-based approach provides a much more sophisticated and robust solution. It’s also easier to use in the field.

A strawberry picker using the AgPick

"Agricultural technology is undergoing rapid change as a whole and harvesting technologies are evolving – we’re ambitious enough to believe our system is at the forefront."

AgPick is used in wine grape and strawberry production, as well as a strong focus on the mango, cherry and avocado sectors.

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