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Farmworker picking citrus

How RFID technology can help your fruit farm

South Africa is a well-known producer and exporter of citrus and subtropical fruits. In every corner of SA, you can find different fruit crops that are suited to growing in that climate. This allows us to produce different fruit throughout the year. 

Fruit farming is a labour intensive job, it is not made for sissies. As they say. Without farmworkers, this job would not be possible. 

Farmworker sorting fruit

The process of selling fruit is lengthy. From handpicking the fruits to washing and sorting them is a process that requires many hands.  

By owning a fruit farm, you know that labour costs are usually your biggest expense. Many hands mean more people to pay. And although you may only need seasonal workers, this is still a costly expense. 

With a long harvesting season that stretches from March to the end of November, managing fruit workers, especially their wages, is a very big challenge and a huge headache if you don’t have technology in place to help you. 

The manager has to keep a record of the workers on the farm by taking roll-call at the beginning and end of the day. He/she also has to count every bucket of fruit picked by the workers. As well as hours worked, and overtime. This is then paid at the end of the day to every worker. This takes out huge chunks in the manager's day and could be making your farm highly inefficient. 

All this information is manually entered into separate sheets for the permanent workers and the seasonal workers. Recording this information may take the whole day and you may still not be done when the workers come to get their pay at the end of the day. 

Mistakes will be made, which are often very difficult to rectify. And leads to unnecessary added stress to your life. 

The manager has to be everywhere to monitor the workers. He/she has to make sure that workers are in the correct areas and not operating equipment that they should not be.

The manager also has to monitor the packing shed to oversee quality control. The manager must be available during overtime and watch the workers in the field. 

This ends up becoming an impossible situation to manage. You will have to employ more managers to do these jobs and it means more costs for your farm. 

As your farm grows, it becomes more and more difficult and time-consuming to manage the workforce. Time is money and a solution needs to be found. Fast… 

We have three solutions that your farm could use to solve these issues. Based on your unique needs, we aim to solve problems in your farms as fast as possible. 

These solutions will help save your agricultural farm money. You can decide which solution best fits your farm from these options. 

Key tags and readers 

Key tags in fruit farm RFID

Instead of manually keeping track of wages and recording roll call every day, an electronic solution with RFID key tags & readers can be implemented straight away. 

This easy to use solution allows you to electronically record and budget for labour related costs. It also provides efficient means to log time and attendance information without manually inputting it for hours at a time.

How it works

Farmworker RFID access control

Farmworkers are given plastic tags that swipe against the reader device when they arrive to work and leave in the evening. This records time and attendance electronically and makes sure that workers are there on time. 

A system will be created and stored on your computer that is linked to your reader. Here you can see important information. This system accurately records time and attendance information as well as their pickings for the day. 

Here is an example of how powerful this system is. If workers are late or have not arrived yet, you will be able to see it on the system. It will display which worker is late and what their unique ID number is. 

This system is also great for recording the farmworkers packing skills. Workers will swipe their tags against the reader when they have packed ‘x’ amount of boxes or have completed a specific task. This can be done under the supervision of a manager to ensure that the worker does not swipe too many times. 

The system then will automatically calculate each worker’s wages for the day based on the work that they have completed without you manually calculating it at the end of the day. 

For example, the worker will get paid based on how many bags of fruit were picked during that day per orchard. 

RFID tags are a great solution to track how much a picker has collected during the day and give them a fair sum for their efforts. 

There is no way that the farmworker can cheat the system by swiping the reader more than once. Each worker’s average productivity history is recorded on the system and all irregularities are automatically flagged on the system. The supervisor will then be alerted straight away and the system will not calculate how much the worker should be paid for that day until the issue is dealt with. 

Unproductive workers can immediately be identified by the system and the issue can be addressed by giving the worker more training or services he/she requires to be more productive. 

Alternatively, an incentive structure is created to improve the productivity of your seasonal workers. Those that harvest more than the minimum are paid a higher amount per kilogram, while underperforming workers are identified for retraining and do not get paid as much. 

Therefore, there is an incentive for your farmworker to work harder to get more money. 

The simplicity of this allows you as a farmer to ensure that your workers are getting paid for their work and that you are not losing money in the process.

Re-iterating

Fruit picking weigh with RFID technology tag

With this solution, you can make use of two different types of readers. One for time and attendance. This will be recorded during the day and when farmworkers leave in the evenings. It accurately records the number of hours worked throughout the day. 

Another reader can be used for recording the amount of bags a worker has picked throughout the day. This will calculate the amount of money the workers receive after the end of their day. 

For example, the reader can be set up to record every two buckets of fruit that are picked the ‘tag’ is swiped once.

Every evening the data is downloaded and at the end of the month, it can be used to create a report. 

Some of the advantages of using this system

Scanning RFID reader for fruit picked
  • Measures productivity of your employee.
  • Decreases payroll processing time and administration work during the day.
  • Saves costs through monitoring the effectiveness of workers.
  • Used as evidence in disciplinary hearings.
  • Leads to a more effective and efficient workforce.
  • Statistics and data are instantly available.
  • User-friendly for farmworkers.
  • Customised for individual farmer needs.
  • Great return. 

Additionally, reports can be created on absenteeism, lateness, short time, overtime, daily hours worked and weekly hours worked. This can be customized to each farmer’s needs on their computer which is linked to the reader.

As we like to say, if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it. Without this system in place,  you would not be able to monitor which farmworkers, for example, are over productive. Thus, you would not know to praise them or give them a higher earning for their efforts. Having a system helps you manage your farm more efficiently and make good decisions.

Card technology and readers

Scanning access card of farmworker

Cards are a much more affordable solution. They have multi-purpose. Here you can use these cards for time and attendance, access control and identification.

Farmworkers can clock in every day in the morning when they start work and clock out when they leave work in the evening. 

Each farmworker will be given a card that is unique to them. Here a unique number or name can be printed on it with the farm's logo and farm information. These cards can be pre-printed from our factory or printed on-site with our available range of card printers.

We understand that you may have seasonal workers and that you will have to print new cards on demand. We have support videos on our DS Sigma range showing you how to easily print cards from anywhere. 

How it works

Access card and reader RFID technology

The farmworker simply taps the card against the reader and is allowed into the farm premises. Usually, a turnstile or entry system will be in place for this. This will record the farmworker as clocked in and will record the number of hours worked throughout the day. 

These cards will have a 1k MI fare chip in them meaning that information stored on the card is safe and secure through encryption (extra layer of security). Meaning that no one will be able to access information on the card. 

We will set up a system that is linked to your reader. The reader will store and send all of the important information from the card onto the system (computer). Meaning that you will be able to see who has clocked in and who hasn’t. 

We prefer this system as the farmworker carries a card with them wherever they go. So if the manager asks for identification they can show their information there and then. Whereas with a tag, you cannot provide any identification right there and the tag could have been stolen from another farmworker. You will have to scan the tag and only then will the information populate on your system. Unless you have a mobile reader, you will not be able to access their information so quickly. 

Controlling access to certain areas

Access to farm machinery

A farmer must be able to control access to their farm. This is necessary to ensure that the safety and security of his/her equipment, crops, etc. are well protected. 

There is a huge risk of farming equipment being stolen through organised crime. Additionally, many of these large, specialized machines are meant to be operated by certified personnel only

The card access control system only allows authorised personnel to access these areas. It will not allow any other unauthorised person into this area. Meaning that only people who can operate these machines will be allowed in this area. This makes your farm safe and secure and prevents any unwanted visitors from accessing important areas on your farm.

Additional perks 

Farmworkers picking fruit

Additionally, the card can be used to record the number of fruit the farmworker has picked throughout the day. By having a unique number on the card, the manager can scan the farmworker's card and record how many bags of fruit they have collected throughout the day. 

Below is a simple system to explain what I mean:

Here the farmworker will then get paid a fair amount for the number of bags or buckets he/she has collected throughout the day. 

The same incentive works here as above. The more bags that the farmworker picks, the more money he/she receives. Thus, providing an incentive for the farmworker to work harder throughout the day to get more money. 

RFID wristbands

Farmworker with RFID wristband

Wristbands work similarly to the key tags as explained above. 

Here you will have to implement a reader and a wristband system. The reader will be linked to your computer system. Time and attendance, as well as the number of pickings, can be recorded on this system. Allowing you to make monthly reports on your farmworkers and the progress of your harvest. 

How it works

RFID wristband at farm

Each farmer will be given an RFID wristband. These wristbands can be colour coded for seasonal workers and permanent workers making it easier to differentiate. 

The wristband can be customized by having the farm's unique logo branded on it.

An RFID chip is embedded inside of it meaning that all the information stored is safe, secure and encrypted. 

The farmworkers will arrive at work and place their wrists against the reader to gain access as well as record time and attendance on the system. 

Throughout the day they can use their wristbands on another reader designed only for recording the number of pickings for the day. For example, after picking two buckets of fruit the farmworkers can record this by tapping their wrists against the reader. 

At the end of the day, the number of buckets will be calculated on the system and the farmworker will be fairly compensated for his/her hard work for the day.

Additionally, wristbands can be used to manage access to specific areas. Another reader will be implemented for access control. Only authorised farm workers will be allowed to enter specific parts of the farm. For example, farmworkers who are not certified personnel may not operate special machines and thus be denied access to areas where machinery is kept. 

This ensures that no unwanted visitors can access special areas and that it is a safer environment for all. 

Some additional advantages

Silicone RFID wristband tecnology
  • Accessible on your wrist so farmworkers will not lose these bands easily. 
  • Increases security - wristbands are highly protected and prevent unauthorised access. 
  • Waterproof, shock-resistant and long-lasting. More durable than plastic cards. 
  • Tamper-proof. 
  • Used to capture data, monitor time and gain access.
  • Prevents long lines of farmers waiting to get into the farm. 

Some disadvantages

  • Silicone bracelets are much more expensive. 
  • They can be given to unauthorised people to access your farm without identification.
  • Farmworkers may forget their band at home. 

With some of these disadvantages in mind, we believe that having an identification card is necessary before entering the farm. The manager can oversee that the farmworker is who they say they are and prevent any unauthorised workers from entering the farm. 

Conclusion

Farmworker picking bananas

Based on your farms needs. You as the farm manager can decide which solution best fits your farm. 

These three solutions are all quite different but all have the same value in mind. To save your farm money and make it more efficient. 

Instead of manually inputting information like in the olden days. We have three new solutions that will save your farm a lot of time and money. As well as reducing some unnecessary stress. 

Without agricultural food workers, fruit farming would not be possible. At Easi-card we aim to provide simple solutions to help manage your workers and make your farm more efficient. 

For more information please contact us.
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