A recent article in Greenhouse Grower piqued my interest. Roger Smith, General Manager of TreeSource Citrus Nursery is quoted in the article “Collaboration Powers Innovation at TreeSource Citrus Nursery”as saying, “What most people don’t grasp, especially with automation, is that it is not just about labor-saving technology. Oftentimes, it’s a complete rethink of your processes and being open to new ways of getting things done.”

It is easy to use the rational “because it’s how we’ve always done it.” But, is this way of thinking going to keep you in business long-term? Labor is typically a company’s highest expense, so it’s crucial for any business to address and evaluate its labor costs. Then, management must determine how labor-saving technology could keep your farm or nursery competitive.

With several recent e-coli scares linked to fresh produce, the Ag industry must know that even more stringent food safety practices are on the way. In order to truly reassure consumers that a contamination is under control, data records must be available that can trace produce back to its source--to where and when it was picked and the employee that did the picking. How do farmers tackle such a feat? It's time to turn to tech. Ag data collection software makes it possible for a farm of any size to collect and maintain such detailed records demanded by today's consumers.

A specialty crop picker’s first day’s pay for hand-harvest work could be less than minimum wage. Pairing a novice picker with a seasoned employee can dramatically improve a picker’s technique so that he or she earns $20, $30, $40… maybe even $50 an hour. However, this requires you to have picking rate data available quickly to compare to minimum wage calculations. Until then… the training period is on your dime.

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