13 Sep Booming horticulture sector focuses on innovations
The Horticulture sector is booming presently across a wide range of fruit and produce lines and is set to have another bumper crop next season. However, this is posing some problems, especially when it comes to labour supply, both in harvest and post-harvest.
Horticulture New Zealand recently held its annual conference in Nelson and we attended the event and got a good insight into forward thinking innovations.
One of the more interesting topics was around robotics and automation and how this can free up labour resources which can be re-deployed to other parts of the growing, harvesting and post harvest production process.
However, the introduction of robotic automation comes at a cost and the sector is wary of adding additional overheads especially when developments are at early adopter stage due to costs.
Anthony says that a cost analysis was presented at the conference that compared a robotic tray packing system to the current labour-centric system.
For example, the manual tray packing system required 2 and a half labour units to effectively achieve the task and estimated that the annual cost was $37,500 per lane.
Rather than pay the full capital price of a robotic system, it was proposed that the packing company pay the same as the annual labour cost. This then enabled the company to not only re-deploy staff elsewhere but try the new technology without increasing operating costs and very little capital outlay.
EQM launched a similar solution with our fruit labeling equipment a couple of years ago via a lease arrangement whereby packing companies only lease or rent the equipment for the part of the season that it’s needed. This then minimises the overall capital outlay.
We see this with other systems and equipment that we are asked to develop and price for clients. They really need the equipment so that it improves the efficiency of the process but the up-front cost can be prohibitive.
We can now offer a more flexible solution with some of our production equipment solutions. If you are looking at a significant project that requires capital investment, then talk to us first about the best approach.