South Australia's Agricultural Picking Technology (APT), established in response to a need for harvesting efficiency and accountability in the horticultural sector, has appointed leading Sunshine Coast berry grower and propagator Paradise Fruits as Queensland agent for its AgPick tool.
APT chief executive officer Henrietta Child said the collaboration was partly in response to the global pandemic which prevented the Adelaide-based team travelling to farms interstate.
"However, mostly, it evolved because Paradise Fruits is a respected and long-term berry industry leader and innovator and an adopter of our harvesting tool, AgPick," said Child.
"As a model user of our technology, it is well-placed to understand the needs of Queensland berry growers. Paradise Fruits is also geographically able to demonstrate how our software works on a farm location. Farmers respond to other farmers.
"We see this as the first of several agency appointments as part of our distribution strategy to drive sales, generate leads and open new doors," added Child.
Paradise Fruits is a raspberry and blueberry producer and strawberry plug plant propagator based at Caboolture, south-east Queensland.
Co-owner Vivien Dydula said the arrangement was consistent with the business's growth and diversification strategy.
"Farming is not what it was when we entered the industry 26 years ago. Farming businesses today need to find new ways to operate and generate income while streamlining operations," she said.
"We'll be inviting berry growers to see how AgPick works for us and encouraging them to move away from spreadsheets.
"Farmers are looking for easier ways to do things but don't always know where to start. Also, there's often a fear of technology and a concern that it's costly and needs a specialist to operate. But this is straight-forward and reasonably priced technology that, for us, paid for itself immediately."
She said there were approximately 15-20 key berry growers among about 80 producers in the Moreton Bay region. Paradise Fruits has close relationships with many.
"When we came here, there were about 12m strawberry plants under cultivation in the area. There are now about 70m. Other berry lines grown locally include raspberries, blueberries and a small volume of blackberries. The opportunities for adopting this technology are vast in this region alone."
The arrangement would potentially generate one or two positions at Paradise Fruits, Dydula said.
APT seeks horticulture industry partners
Child added that APT was keen to partner with Queensland horticulture industry leaders and expand its presence in the region.
Since launching AgPick as a hand-held harvesting tool in 2017, APT has extended the software's capabilities to capture operational data for any fresh produce grower.
For Paradise Fruits, this includes a customised component to help record picker movements under Covid-19-safe auditing practices. Another component is under development at South Australia's Kay Brothers.
"AgPick was developed for a requirement in horticulture for transparency in piece-rate payments and to provide good control of harvest management. That issue remains," Child said.
"However, we found the same technology can easily apply to flexible workflows and help farmers anticipate and plan volumes which speeds up the whole operation. The next step was to apply that to all outdoors operations to help farmers analyse their costs versus yield.
"Our product is entirely customer driven - you can't stand still with software."
AgPick is in use throughout Paradise Fruits' operations at Caboolture, Queensland.