Over 60 seasonal workers are harvesting cherries at Tarras Cherry Corp this season

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology is helping New Zealand cherry producer Tarras Cherry Corp attract and reward productive seasonal workers.

Developed by Auckland-based software company Dataphyll, the technology removes any discrepancy around volumes harvested by pickers.

“The Dataphyll Grow software ensures pickers are paid for the exact kilograms of cherries they harvest,” said Ross Kirk, orchard and project manager of Tarras Cherry Corp.

“It provides an absolute volume of harvested fruit through scanning and weighing and links the volume to the picker. Pickers know in real time how much they have picked and how much they will earn.”

At a time when pickers are in short supply, Kirk said the technology is a way of retaining quality workers.

“With workers being paid per kilo, there's an incentive to fill buckets. A smart picker can earn well because the more they pick, the more they get paid and it pinpoints top performers who pick above the minimum and may be eligible for bonuses,” he explained.

“Pickers can keep track of their earnings via an app on their phone. There's no risk of other pickers being paid for their harvested fruit.”

Traceability a key benefit

The software also improves traceability, according to Kirk.

“Over time, long-term data collection will allow orchard mapping to determine harvest volumes and ease control of fruit flow to the packhouse,” Kirk said.

Dataphyll chief executive and co-founder Christoph Kistler said the technology was developed to pay pickers for performance, not attendance.

“It tracks workers and buckets via ID tags which interface with mobile devices and weigh stations in the orchard,” Kistler explained.

The software, developed initially for the berry industry in 2015, had been extended to meet Tarras Chery Corp's needs.

“A 'runner' collects picked buckets which are placed on a weigh station,” Kistler said. The weight is captured automatically via a unique identifier on the bucket.

“Orchardists can review performance and production in real-time, highlight best performing workers, row-level yields and understand reject rates.”

Reconciling data from orchard to payroll

The software has been integrated with Tarras Cherry Corp's existing orchard and people management solution, known internally as Horthub.

Produced by Prolorus Solutions on the Prolorus platform, Horthub captures hours worked, combines the productivity data captured by Dataphyll and calculates transactions required for payroll.

“This includes ordinary hours, performance bonuses, along with any other deductions such as accommodation,” said Simon Lind, chief executive of Prolorus.

“Our platform provides workflows for recruiting and onboarding employees, then manages wage calculations. The automation of this process reduced a lot of paperwork and manual handling of data (and therefore data entry errors).”