Baby broccoli case study - AgPickBook a demonstration

Baby broccoli

Compliance the goal for Bulmer Farms

Bulmer Farms, a leading Australian vegetable grower, has 10 sites in the Lindenow Valley, East Gippsland, Victoria. It produces multiple lines including baby broccoli, iceberg and cos lettuce, salad mixes and spinach, harvesting 52 weeks a year. It became the first vegetable producer to adopt AgPick. The system is used to manage its baby broccoli operations. It produces some four million bunches a year.

The challenge

In early 2022 and with piece-rate changes imminent, Bulmer Farms began exploring automated systems to gain better control over its baby broccoli harvest operations and ensure accurate picker payment.

It is only in Bulmer Farms’ baby broccoli operations that piece-rate payments apply – and where a new process was required.

“The objective was simple – we needed to gain control of recording harvest activities in the field, so we are able to pay pickers correctly, whether they are on hourly or piece-rates or both,” financial controller Glenn Trewin says.

At Bulmer Farms, AgPick records both hourly crop work and piece-rate picking in baby broccoli operations. Hourly crop work includes snapping heads off plants at various times during the cycle.

Piece-rate picking involves picking six heads to a bunch and allocating 40 bunches to a crate. Pickers are paid by the bunch.

“Previously, we used pen and paper and manually uploaded information to Excel. What AgPick does is not a difficult task but it’s a task that needs to be done well and in a timely manner,” Glenn says.

With 24-30 seasonal workers in the field at any one time throughout the year – depending on the time of year – the biggest challenge was training and encouraging farm workers to adopt the technology.

“Some people have been here for a long time and were comfortable with the manual process. It took some time for everyone to get there but they have all accepted it now and it’s really very simple to use,” agronomist Alexandra Keith says.

The solution

After coming across AgPick, Alexandra started the ball rolling and Bulmers quickly found it answered the brief.

Baby broccoli case study - AgPick

“Accuracy and compliance were our main objectives. That was more important than anything. The advent of piece-rates meant it was time to automate and get better control at the same time,” Glenn says.

“Our previous system would have worked but what AgPick does that the previously system couldn’t do, is record harvest start and finish times. This ensures we can match times against piece-rates for accurate payment,” Glenn says.

“The piece-rate calculator has been an addition since the system’s initial implementation but that’s just part of the evolution of the software and we are enjoying its benefits.”

Baby broccoli case study - AgPick

The outcome

Bulmer Farms required the system to be implemented in April 2022 in time for the Hort Award’s piece-rate changes to take effect.

Baby broccoli crop work is conducted weekly throughout the year and harvesting is carried out at least weekly until the plant is spent, following four to six weeks of progressive picks. Once full, crates are scanned on touch screens by supervisors or tractor drivers, with individual picker ID cards matching a picker’s productivity, and data upload automatically.

Crates are then loaded onto pallets and transported to the packhouse where AgPick’s technology integrates with another bunch-recording system to double-check for accuracy.

“AgPick is one of the only systems in the marketplace that records picker activity well. That is based on our experience of what the system has provided to us,” Glenn says.

“We now have reliable and accurate data so we know exactly what to pay our workers. We set out to achieve compliance and we are very proud to be compliant,” he says.

Ongoing support from the AgPick team is excellent, with any issues resolved quickly and easily, he says.

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