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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.