Australia: Harvesting technology company breaks new ground

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Australia: Harvesting technology company breaks new ground

Innovative harvesting technology designed by an Australian firm to increase picking efficiencies is said to be at the forefront of change in the country's horticultural sector.

Agricultural Picking Technology's flagship product, AgPick, is a hand-operated Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) harvesting system.

It was launched in 2017 after APT identified a need to improve the labor management of picking operations, amid a tightening of labor laws.

CEO Henrietta Child said the technology provides transparent data allowing workers to see their pick rate and total earnings. It also enables producers who managed their own labor 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," she 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".

The system also gives producers more autonomy over their harvesting decisions, as they are able to see efficiencies, streamline their operations and save money.

"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," Child said.

"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."

The technology is currently being used in wine grape and strawberry production, but APT is also focusing on the mango, cherry and avocado sectors.

APT says the model will equip producers to deal with complex labor law changes, specifically in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria.

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