Young Farmer of the Year uses Farm Costing Solutions to manage labour expenses

Alexander Gibson of Doornkraal Agri – an apple and pear grower in the Witzenberg Valley – was named Agri Western Cape and Santam Agriculture’s Young Farmer of the Year in May. The judges commended Gibson’s strong focus on technology and innovation over the past decade. From pallet-tracking and carton-scanning software to a sophisticated irrigation control system, Gibson has introduced several cutting- edge technologies to enhance the efficiency of
the business.

When it comes to managing its workforce, Doornkraal has implemented the Farm Costing Solutions (FCS) system to electronically capture and manage labour costs. Doornkraal depends on FCS to monitor time and attendance together with piecework. When workers arrive in the morning, they swipe a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag against an FCS reader device that records the exact time. When they leave in the afternoon, the tag is swiped again. All this information is sent to a central database that can be accessed at any time.

For piecework – such as pruning and harvesting – Doornkraal groups its workers into small teams. FCS is used to track each team’s output and wages are calculated based on the productivity of the team, as opposed to individual performance. In the morning, workers clock in at the orchard and are assigned to a team by swiping their tags against an FCS portable reader. Managers select
the allocated block number activity and choose the relevant fruit variety directly on the FCS reader. Throughout the day the FCS system keeps track of the number of bins filled and splits the wages accordingly among all team members. The filled bins are then dispatched to Doornkraal’s modern packing facility.

At the packhouse, employee time and attendance is still managed manually because the facility needs to adhere to BRC standards, which doesn’t allow workers to carry loose items such as FCS tags, as they do elsewhere on the farm. The manual roll call system takes 15 minutes each morning – time that could be spent on productive activities. Working with the FCS team to streamline this system, Doornkraal is about to introduce fingerprint-readers at the packhouse turnstiles to track entry and exit from the facility.

Lourens van der Merwe, FCS Technical Manager, recalls the day Gibson visited the company to discuss his pending expansion and related requirements.

Gibson confirms that he has looked at numerous systems over the past decade and believes FCS is ahead of its competitors in terms of managing labour-related costs, particularly piecework. He also describes FCS’s after-sales service and support as “quick and efficient”.

This article was written and published by the SA Fruit Journal.