rugged handheld device labor tracking app

Why We Offer Hardware in the Age of Farm Software

Software has become an important tool for growers, improving farm efficiency and providing accurate and timely information to make better, more profitable decisions. However, sometimes we forget that we must run software on something. From the inception of our flagship product, the FairPick scale, we realized that the combination of hardware and software would be key for our products to work well on the farm. The device that would run our labor tracking software would need to be rated for outdoor use and designed for industrial applications.

When we started talking to more growers, we learned that the FairPick scale offered a great solution for tracking harvest and produce picked but did not offer an easy way to track other employee time and piecework jobs. The ability to electronically record all work on the farm was the next step. This prompted our search for a manufacturer that offered industrial handheld computers to run our Android applications. Our partnership with Cipherlab has allowed us to deliver several models of handhelds over the last four years that meet our expectations and the needs of our customers.

Cipherlab manufactures mobile devices that offer the latest and greatest technology for many industrial applications. By using Cipherlab handhelds, it ensures that our software is compatible with the operating system of the device. It also allows our software to “talk” to other components on the device (sound, barcode scanner, NFC scanner, etc.). Technology changes so rapidly that it can be challenging for a software provider to guarantee that their applications work on all devices. We know that growers cannot tolerate much downtime with their technology, so pairing hardware with our labor tracking and product tracking software can make our systems more reliable.

Here are some other benefits of using Cipherlab handhelds versus typical cell phones to run 2nd Sight software:

  1. Built-in barcode scanners with physical scanner button for ease-of-use
  2. Hot-swappable batteries, spare batteries, and charging docks for extended workdays
  3. AppLock program that allows an admin to permit only certain apps be opened which prevents misuse and abuse of the device by employees
  4. Wi-Fi or SIM card capabilities for full data upload flexibility
  5. Built-in NFC reader that scans RFID cards and tags so that employee badges can be sturdy, get dirty, and get wet (unlike barcode badges)
  6. Ability to install micro SD cards for additional data back-up If the handheld is damaged

In 2020, we released the RS51 handheld for our FairPick Lite and FairTrak systems. This update to the RS50 includes an improved operating system and more processing power which means that it can handle a lot of data quickly. In 2021, we will release the RS35 handheld for use with our InstaCaliper and TallyTrak system. The RS35 will also boast more processing power and its integrated barcode scanner will now support 2D barcodes.

Ready to learn more about how our hardware and software work together as an integrated solution for your farm, nursery, or greenhouse? Send us an email or give us a call and we would be happy to explain why paying a little more for hardware will pay off when you need it most!

The Automobile, Not So Crazy Now: When is it too good to be true?

We are always looking to the future. The future holds unknowns in terms of new challenges and new solutions. We hope that the future brings growth for ourselves and our businesses. What does the future look like for specialty crop farming? Where is the industry heading as a whole? Does change always mean improvement?

From day one, the 2nd Sight team wanted to bring technology to an industry that often falls behind the curve in terms of what technology is available and how quickly new tech is accepted and adopted. However, initial enthusiasm is often followed by apathy, skepticism, or rejection altogether. Our story often feels like one of Sisyphus rolling that rock up the hill. Will the adoption of new technology “make or break” a farming operation in the next few years? Or will growers get by with the same methods? Will these “tried and true” systems, tools, and methodologies work despite changing circumstances?

Over the last year and a half, our engineering team has been hard at work developing a vehicle that will have various attachments to automate labor-intensive jobs associated with growing hops. The most important innovation of the MAV (Multifunctional Agriculture Vehicle) is the automated tying mechanism that will attach twine to the top trellis cables. This job has always been done by crews of workers tying hundreds and thousands of knots by hand every spring.

Using automation equipment and new technology to decrease labor expenses is a common theme in Precision Ag conversations. If crop prices remain the same and expenses are increasing, a farm only has one option to increase profitability—decrease expenses. Labor will almost always be a company’s biggest expense.
2nd Sight reached a big milestone this month by performing field trials of the MAV and its ability to consistently tie hundreds of knots to trellis wires in a hops yard with only one vehicle operator. It was a first for the industry to see this in action after previous failed attempts at a machine. During a grower demo in Prosser, we ran the machine down a few poles, and it tied wonderfully. When the machine was turned off and the Q&A began, our CEO/President asked what everybody thought about the system. The most audible comment, “Too good to be true”.

I found an interesting article that was written by Alexander Winton who built and sold the first automobile in the US. This is what he said as he reflected on his work:

When I first contemplated the application of gasoline for vehicles, I had a bicycle plant in Cleveland. Because bikes interested me, my mind naturally turned to something a rider wouldn’t have to push and keep pushing if he was trying to get some place. But the great obstacle to the development of the automobile was the lack of public interest. To advocate replacing the horse, which had served man through centuries, marked one as an imbecile. Things are very different today. But in the ’90s, even though I had a successful bicycle business, and was building my first car in the privacy of the cellar in my home, I began to be pointed out as “the fool who is fiddling with a buggy that will run without being hitched to a horse.” My banker called on me to say: “Winton, I am disappointed in you.”

Change is the only constant and there are a lot of companies out there striving to ease the pain points of the specialty crop industry with new technology. The numbers may pencil out for an acceptable ROI, but it still takes a shift in one’s mindset to adopt a new tool or piece of equipment. This can be hard because of minimal empirical evidence of success. It takes a leap of faith from a few to change the industry. It also takes trust that somebody’s idea is a good one. Or, should we go back to using the horse and plow?

How the InstaCaliper and TallyTrak can Work to Fully Automate Inventory Capture at your Tree Nursery

We have worked with many fruit and vegetable growers over the years to build custom reports using the data captured by our labor tracking systems. Custom reports are often commissioned so that growers can directly import 2nd Sight data into their payroll software. This ensures a fast, simple, and seamless payroll process during harvest, the most hectic time of year.

For our customer support team, September is a welcomed month with small fruit harvest (cherries and berries) wrapping up in the Northwest. We start to shift gears, working with nurseries who begin their fall inventory. Our TallyTrak and InstaCaliper systems help commercial nurseries capture the counts and sizes of their stock so that they know what they can sell. Every data point uploads to our Portal, tagged with size, variety, location and often a grade. From there, a grower can filter a log and download entries into a spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel. Eliminating manual data entry increases accuracy and saves time. Both aspects are important for a nursery trying to be more efficient and productive.

In the last couple of years, we have worked more with nurseries to setup and build reports that streamline importation of 2nd Sight data into nursery inventory management software. Our software allows the user to define the data fields that need to be associated with each measurement or count. We have become familiar with ways to set up these lists of information to be more conducive to importing and still make sense for the operator out in the field. The InstaCaliper and TallyTrak software can produce files that import successfully into inventory software packages such as GrowPoint, eGrow, and SBI software.

If you are currently hand calipering, using pen and paper to record, transcribing hand-written notes to an electronic spreadsheet, then hand-entering your inventory counts into an inventory software program, imagine the time savings by recording your inventory electronically with the InstaCaliper and TallyTrak systems. Capturing inventory is as easy as tap, swipe, sync, generate, download, import.

Some nurseries even think about doing inventory more often since its less of a time investment. At a minimum, current employees can spend less time doing such a monotonous task and more time on other jobs that are better suited for humans. Electronic data capture improves accuracy and recordkeeping so nurseries can maximize profits by knowing exactly what they have to sell. Pushing inventory data from 2nd Sight systems directly into an inventory management software is really the icing on the cake. Sometimes it can be a challenge to change a process that has not changed for decades, but I urge every nursery out there to “take a leaf of faith” on this technology.