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FairPick Farm Harvest Scale

It is that time of year! Spring is in the air with brisk mornings and warm afternoons. More daylight is a welcomed change. FairPick’s are being wheeled out of storage… must be harvest time!

Days are getting busier as the fully vaccinated 2nd Sight team moves back to more “normal” life at the office. Once berry harvest in Florida and asparagus harvest in Washington begin, we keep busy until apples in the fall! For this post, I want to emphasize that change, like the welcomed change of the seasons, can be good, especially if it means less stress, shorter workdays, and happy workers. These are probably not words that come to mind when you think of harvest time. But maybe you could change that too. Do not let uncertainty or fear prevent you from moving your farm forward. Let’s talk about why you should pay by weight for your high value crop this harvest.

Paperless
Our slogan is “Ditch the Punch Cards”. Did you know that the cost of paper punch cards per employee for one harvest season is about the same as one RFID employee badge to log weights with the FairPick? Now imagine not having to count the punch cards at the end of the day. How many hours do you, your crew bosses, and your office staff spend performing this mundane task after an already long day of work? By using RFID employee badges and simple software, a lot of the work is done for you.

Accurate

Although a lug of cherries should contain 20 pounds of fruit, it is not often the case. When we first started field trials of the FairPick back in 2015, we ran the scale system alongside the grower’s punch card system. On average, a picker’s cherry lug would weigh 18.5 pounds when logged for credit. That is a lot of fruit that is being counted but not picked. If you pay by weight, a “full” picking bucket is not important. Workers understand that a full container saves them time because they can make fewer trips to the scale. Or, in some cases, the ability to weigh a half-filled bucket makes more sense. Regardless, exact weights registered electronically are key to an accurate system because guesswork is eliminated, and manual data entry is minimal.

Quiet Fields
From our customers, we learned that fields are quiet with the FairPick. Why? There is less arguing. A completely full bucket or lug is no longer a point to contest. Using a scale to register produce picked results in less fighting and favoritism between field bosses and pickers. A fair system results in happier workers. We have heard stories of pickers who moved from a neighboring farm to pick for a grower with FairPick scales. The added ability to print and take home receipts from all of our farm labor tracking systems is another bonus that improves transparency and builds trust.

Simple

Our goal is to design systems that minimize the learning curve. One challenge for the grower is using a system for a few months out of the year, then putting them away after harvest. We offer systems that allow you to track year-round, but during the intense harvest time if something is not easy to use the data collected is likely to be incorrect, or employees will refuse to use it at all. Designing simple hardware and software takes time and feedback from the people who use them the most. Our best software features and updates come from our customers.

Clean Bins
Another benefit of paying pickers by weight is clean bins. We continue to hear that cherry bins are “clean” (without many leaves) once they switched to the FairPick harvest scale. Leaves are not heavy but take up space in a lug. Workers soon find it is beneficial to clear more of this debris out before weighing. Also, the checker can focus on fruit quality and bin cleaning now that punching tickets is no longer required. The FairPick requires minimal supervision out in the field or orchard so that a checker can pay closer attention to what is being put into the bins or flats, not how much is being logged.

Still concerned about switching to a pay by weight system this harvest? We offer other options to track piecework electronically. However, if you are growing a high value specialty crop, the FairPick offers a simple and streamlined solution. The cost savings of improved payroll accuracy can often pay for one scale in only one harvest season. This quick ROI combined with these other benefits should help you take the next step to change your harvest process for the better.

 


 


2nd-Sight-Team-Engineers

Sometimes I forget to introduce myself. Why is this important? Knowing who you are can be just as important as knowing what you do. August will mark 2nd Sight’s seventh year in business, but we are still young in the Ag industry. For many growers, we are still an agtech start-up and considered risky to work with. Having a proven track record of successful products takes time and enough commitment from early adopters who are willing to take that leap of faith. A grower may want to know more about who 2nd Sight is before inquiring about what we do. Establishing credibility in an industry with long-time players is a challenge. You do not become John Deere overnight.

So instead of saying what 2nd Sight does, I would like to tell you more about who 2nd Sight is. We value quality, reliability, and innovation and every member of our team helps establish these principles. “Engineering Better Solutions for the Ag Industry” started with Kevin Oldenburg, Ph.D., our current CEO and President. After a short retirement, Kevin founded 2nd Sight to get back to his farming roots and bring automation to the Specialty Crop Industry. Kevin’s hobbies include cultivating a variety of crops in his own one-acre orchard and newly installed greenhouse, fishing, hunting, and is an active member of the WA State Beekeepers Association.

Kevin’s passion is to solve problems. His educational background as a Biochemist combined with his hands-on experience developing automation for the Biotech Industry at his last company, Matrical, gives him the ability to look at a problem in a new way. Kevin can also “run the numbers’ to ensure that automation and technology makes financial sense for an operation. The ROI (Return on Investment) is always a key calculation when we evaluate new automation for a grower.

Kevin’s vision to make farming more efficient and more profitable is attainable by developing quality systems that solve the biggest problems that growers face at a reasonable price. Alongside reliable products, we strive to provide top-notch support to keep the automation running. For a small company, the success of each customer is critical to establish credibility and develop a larger customer base.

In future blog posts, we will continue to feature other 2nd Sight employees. Being a small and “lean” organization means every person plays a critical role in the design, development, and support of our software and hardware systems. With life returning back to “normal” post-COVID-19, the entire 2nd Sight team looks forward to more time back in the office and enjoying Friday lunches together again.


growers-feeling-blue-blueberries

For many, 2021 has presented more obstacles to navigate as a farmer. Extreme weather in many parts of the country has taken a toll on crop production, some growers losing fruit that was close to harvest. COVID-19 vaccines are not yet widely available to reach all farmworkers which means growers must plan for another harvest of masks and social distancing. For many US blueberry growers, news that the International Trade Commission voted that no injury has occurred to the domestic blueberry market from imports was unwelcomed. And the “cherry on top” may be Washington State’s looming decision whether agricultural workers are entitled to overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week.

Now that the bad news is out of the way, here are some 2nd Sight solutions to address these challenges.

Crop Insurance
Using electronic farm labor tracking systems provide accurate yield data per field location. Having searchable, digital records with a few button clicks makes it easy to show just how much crop you lose when bad weather hits your farm. Generating totals by year and specific blocks can help prove your case when you file a claim.

Socially Distanced Harvest
Ditch the punch cards that must be passed back and forth between field boss, picker, and office staff during harvest time. Employees can scan their RFID badges to log pieces or weight with little person-to-person contact with electronic punch card systems.

Decrease Labor Costs
Labor is more expensive in the US compared to many other blueberry producing countries in the world. Boost your bottom line by investing in ways to decrease your labor costs. Start by capturing accurate hours, counts, and weights in the field to minimize overpayments. Continue saving labor in the office with minimal manual data entry and reports that simplify and streamline the payroll process. Although there may be an upfront cost to upgrade and adapt your process, think about it as an investment and analyze the ROI. If you can pay for a system in one to two seasons with the savings, it may be time to adopt new tech.

Recordkeeping
Could you produce accurate records of employee timesheets and hours? How long would it take for you to get these numbers together? Could you identify which workers would be owed back-pay for overtime for the last three years? This is the nightmare that many growers may be facing in Washington State. It is becoming more important to have and maintain records of farm labor. Many know that California is often the first state to adopt more stringent labor laws. For those who do not have to track pieceworker time to pay rest breaks at average piecework rates, you may not be far behind this headache. Start better recordkeeping now to ensure you have all the data you need to meet the labor laws and pay your employees correctly.

Still feeling the blues?
Remember, even Plato realized that, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” The creativity in the specialty crop industry combined with new technology will enable growers to overcome these obstacles. Face 2021 with an attitude of progress and resiliency, and let us know when we can help.

 


 


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