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.

Sometimes, it takes more than a return on investment (ROI) calculation to convince a company (or yourself) to do something different. As Smith expressed, it may also require a shift in mind-set. Let technology move your farm or nursery forward. Tools that provide precision agriculture data cut down the waste, the over-payments and the labor hours while providing you with date to effectively evaluate the true profitability of a particular variety and location.

Retire the punch cards, manual time sheets, and prehistoric time clocks. Electronic labor records, RFID and barcode data collection, precise counts and weight measurements, detailed audit trails, GPS mapping, automated payroll report imports…. don’t be the last grower to get on board, because you may as well be left behind at the station.

“People who appear to be resisting change may simply be the victim of bad habits. Habit, like gravity, never takes a day off.”

― Paul Gibbons, The Science of Successful Organizational Change: How Leaders Set Strategy, Change Behavior, and Create an Agile Culture

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.

If you could get this information with the click of a button, wouldn’t it be foolish not to utilize the technology? And from a fruit picker’s perspective, why work harder and faster if it doesn’t seem possible to make more than minimum wage? It can be as easy as running a report that automatically flags pickers under the minimum wage pay.

The best hand-harvest pickers want to make money. Paying field workers by the unit provides the opportunity to earn more money and attract good workers. The best workers pick faster and better-quality produce. Some farms have the advantage of a large workforce and long picking season. They can utilize 1,000 workers over their entire picking and pruning seasons. Not everyone is so blessed. No one makes money on unpicked fruit or vegetables left to rot in the fields.

Question: If I know each bucket holds 20 lb., why not pay by the bucket?

Answer: From a picker’s perspective, I just need the bucket to look full in order to receive full credit. As a picker, I don’t care if there is 20 lb. in the bucket—the lighter the better! We all know that “fluffing” makes the bucket look full. Sure, the produce might bruise… but that’s not a picker’s concern.

Suppose the farmer is clever and weighs the bucket to make sure it is at least 20 lb. How will this create more trust and employee satisfaction and retention when pickers feel cheated every time they bring in a bucket over 20 lb.?

Pay by weight to eliminate many of the problems that arise from the “pay by the bucket” mentality. Use the FairPick Pro or FairPick Lite systems when harvesting high-value specialty crops such as cherries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cherry tomatoes.



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.

Start with a unique identifier for the harvest crew pickers and another for the hand-picked specialty crops. In this example, we will use barcodes for the fruit or produce and RFID badges for the pickers and processing workers.

Begin the data capture process by using a 2nd Sight handheld computer. Designed for durability, performance, and power efficiency, each handheld is equipped with 1D/2D barcode reader and RFID/NFC capture capabilities. The handheld computer is GPS-enabled for precision agriculture (PA), satellite farming, or site-specific crop management. A typical accuracy for a handheld GPS is three to 30 meters of the true position.

Data transfers via Wi-Fi and LTE connections for constant back-end system connection and real-time data transmission.

Data gathered from the harvest crews, farm owners, farm managers, and retailers is passed via the cloud to provide information regarding the progress of the harvest, the density of the production in the field, and picking rates.