Thanks to the International Society of Precision Agriculture (ISPA), farmers and ag equipment and service provides now have a way to define Precision Agriculture:
“Precision Agriculture is a management strategy that gathers, processes, and analyzes temporal, spatial, and individual data and combines it with other information to support management decisions according to estimated variability for improved resource use efficiency, productivity, quality, profitability, and sustainability of agricultural production.”
This definition incorporates a lot, so let’s break it down by some of the key words and explain why capturing labor data electronically falls within the scope of Precision Ag.
“Temporal, spatial, and individual data”
This definition emphasizes the importance of knowing what, when, and where activities and processes are happening on the farm. Time stamps are a key data point that can provide useful information about trends over time. Information like how long it takes employees to perform specific tasks and how long it takes for pickers to hand-harvest a specific field of fruit can help a grower predict the labor needs for future seasons. The where is critical. Without data about where things are happening, you’re unable to evaluate the specific inputs, expenses, and profitability of different fields or blocks. Yield mapping relies on specific data points that are tagged with time and place. Every badge scan, weigh, piece log, or barcode scan with a 2nd Sight device is stamped with a date and time—the when. With the flexibility of lists, growers can input their fields, blocks, or even row numbers to pinpoint location. Behind the scenes, GPS coordinates are captured and ready for custom yield mapping.
Precision farming is about improvement.
Efficiency means minimizing waste of time, money, or resources and requiring minimum effort to perform a task. Becoming more efficient means doing more with less. In today’s ag environment, labor is a topic that is discussed frequently. Why? Because good labor can be hard to find and difficult to keep.
Implementing technology that allows one person to do two jobs is a huge labor savings. Do you still have a crew of checkers or office staff staying late after harvest to count and transcribe punch cards into a spreadsheet program? What if you could have only one person spending only 15 minutes at a computer reviewing harvest data at the end of the day? That’s using your labor resources more efficiently.
It’s challenging to monitor and improve employee productivity if you don’t know how productive your crew is right now. This relates back to the necessity of having accurate “temporal” data to analyze. Collecting employee data and having the ability to monitor employee performance in hourly and piecework jobs is a powerful tool that can guide your decisions as a manager.
One of the stories we like to tell here is from the first year of testing the FairPick Pro in a cherry orchard in Mattawa. After a full day of picking Rainiers, data uploads from the scale via Wi-Fi to the online Customer Portal. Running the Daily Report quickly revealed the employees that did not make minimum wage with their piecework. The two employees under minimum wage were identified as new pickers. The ability to quickly see and analyze the data made it clear to the grower that these pickers needed to learn how to pick from a more senior employee. Over the next two days, productivity of these two employees increased dramatically.
The QuickPick was a result of needing to eliminate a bottleneck in the process of picking and logging tomatoes in California. The checker punching tickets was the bottleneck and often caused a line to form at the truck where the produce is dumped. Every second in line means a second that is spent picking. Implementing a system that increased productivity was an easy way for the contractors to maximize picker productivity. The QuickPick also increased efficiency since the machine removed the puncher job from each crew. They could manage harvest with one fewer body out in the field.
Unexpected feedback from a customer growing cherries in the Tri-Cities area of Washington was that the cherry bins were cleaner than they had ever been. Why did quality improve? Pickers knew that if they are paid by precise weight, branches and leaves weren’t very heavy and were just taking up space in their lugs. This space could be filled with fruit that would earn them more money.
At 2nd Sight, our vision is to make farming more profitable and fun again. Profitability should be the end goal. To reach that goal, you need to implement everything that is outlined in the definition of Precision Ag including: temporal, spatial, and individual data, improved efficiency, and improved productivity. A profitable farm or orchard means a farm that is more resilient to the challenges that the future brings like rising input costs, uncertain markets, and increased competition. Gather, process, analyze, and make managerial decisions based on the wealth of information you can capture digitally. 2nd Sight offers a suite of hardware and software solutions that can get your business moving in the right direction.