Harvest data model breaks new ground

Innovative harvesting technology designed by emerging South Australian company, Agricultural Picking Technology (APT), to increase picking efficiencies, is at the forefront of change in Australia's horticultural sector.

APT's flagship product, AgPick, a hand-operated Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) harvesting system, was launched in 2017 after APT identified a need to improve the labour management of picking operations. This was amid a backdrop of tightening labour laws.

Chief executive officer, Henrietta Child, said the proprietary AgPick model provided transparent data that allowed pickers to see their pick rate and total earnings. It also enabled producers who managed their own labour to transition from hourly rates to piecework rates through 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," Ms Child said.

"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."

Ms Child said the model provided a high level of worker visibility. It also gave producers greater autonomy over harvest decision making.

"Producers are able to see efficiencies, streamline their operations and save money. 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."

AgPick scanning trays
Caption: AgPick's hand-held scanner in action during the strawberry harvest at Piņata Farms, Stanthorpe, Queensland.
Click for large image.

Technology and horticultural experience combine

Ms Child has extensive experience in the IT industry implementing software and training and mentoring early stage technology companies. Chief technology officer Tony Drake has a background in developing software knowledge systems for the wine and beverage industry.

"Initially, there was the potential to work on cultural change within the wine industry in relation to labour hire and impending labour law changes," Ms Child said.

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

"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. It has the opportunity to be a market leader and set the tone for change."

AgPick is currently in use in wine grape and strawberry production. However, APT is also focusing on the mango, cherry and avocado sectors.

"AgPick has a wide range of configurations and operational methods which can be applied to various picking operations. We can move quickly if there's a need for a new version or variant."

Providing a very high level of ongoing customer support is critical.

"You can't grow a technology company without providing exemplary support. In this industry, growers expect us to be available whenever they need us," Ms Child said.

"A well-developed and scalable technical solution gives us the opportunity to grow as producers grow.

"The move to piece rates is being driven by the demand for fair pay and we've come along at the right time to support that. Our products enable producers to respond to the issue. They will equip them to deal with complex labour law changes, specifically in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.

"Producers really want to do the right thing by their harvest workers. We're giving them the tools to provide good working conditions and attract quality workers."

AgPick features at a glance:

Easy-to-use, hand-held operation.
Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) option for high-powered, long-distance scanning of multiple vessels.
Near Field Communication (NFC) option for close-up scanning of single vessels.
A paperless solution which stores records for real-time or post-harvest analysis.
Option for payroll interface for piecework rates management.
AgPick benefits at a glance:

Accurate record keeping.
Data analysis of hourly picking rate.
Fair payment system.
Licensed product with ongoing online or on-farm support.
Open to bookings for demonstrations or one-week trials.
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Agricultural Picking Technology was established in South Australia in 2017 in response to a need for harvesting efficiency and accountability in the horticultural sector. Its flagship product, AgPick, is at the forefront of global picking technologies. APT is based in Adelaide.

(Issued: April 12, 2018)

Issued by Aqua Public Relations on behalf of Agricultural Picking Technology. For more information please contact:

Henrietta Child
Chief executive officer
Agricultural Picking Technology
(08) 7127 1095

OR
Toni Lucke
Aqua Public Relations
(07) 3312 2505

Email Toni>