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Central Otago cherry producer Tarras Cherry Corp has implemented New Zealand- developed orchard management technology this season to attract and reward productive seasonal workers.

Orchard and project manager Ross Kirk said Tarras Cherry Corp was the first New Zealand cherry business to implement radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology developed by Auckland-based software company, Dataphyll.

“At a time when pickers are in short supply,investing in smart technologies is a way to attract and retain quality workers.

“We want to lead the charge as an innovative and progressive operation throughout the supply chain,” he said.

Dataphyll Grow software ensured pickers were paid for the exact kilograms of cherries they
harvested.

Mr Kirk said it provided an absolute volume of harvested fruit through scanning and weighing and linked the volume to the picker.

“Pickers know in real time how much they have picked and how much they will earn,” he said.

“With workers being paid per kilo, there’s an incentive to fill buckets.”

A smart picker could earn well because the more they picked, the more they got paid and it
pinpointed “top performers” who picked above the minimum and could be eligible for bonuses, Mr Kirk said.

“Pickers can keep track of their earnings via an app on their phone. There’s no risk of
other pickers being paid for their harvested fruit.”

Traceability would be the immediate benefit this season.

“Over time, long-term data collection will allow orchard mapping to determine harvest volumesand ease control of fruit flow to the pack house,” Mr Kirk said.

Dataphyll chief executive officer and co-founder Christoph Kistler said the technology was developed to pay pickers for performance,not attendance.

“It tracks workers and buckets via ID tags which interface with mobile devices and weigh stations in the orchard.”

The software, developed initially for the berry industry in 2015, had been extended to meet Tarras Cherry Corp’s needs, he said.

“A `runner’ collects picked buckets which are placed on a weigh station.

“The weight is captured automatically via a unique identifier on the bucket.”

Orchardists could review performance and production in real-time, highlight best performing workers, row-level yieldsand understand reject rates,” Mr Kistler said.

The software has been integrated with TarrasCherry Corp’s existing orchard and people management solution, knowninternally as Horthub.

Produced byChristchurch’s Prolorus Solutions on the Prolorus platform, Horthub captures hours worked, combines the productivity data captured by Dataphyll and calculates transactions required for payroll.

Prolorus chief executive officer Simon Lind said this included ordinary hours, performance
bonuses, along with any other deductions such as accommodation.

“Our platform provides workflows for recruiting and on boarding employees, then manages
wage calculations.

“The automation of this process reduced a lot of paperwork and manual handling of data (and therefore data entry errors),” he said.