Future Orchards® Virtual Walk – January 2021Research & Extension
With harvest labour continuing to drive uncertainty for apple and pear producers, our latest virtual Orchard Walk, featuring Jonathan Brooks and Dean Rainham, from AgFirst looks at pre-harvest steps that anticipate harvest pinch points and will help you maximise your returns in a season like no other.
With harvest labour continuing to drive uncertainty for apple and pear producers, our latest virtual Orchard Walk, featuring Jonathan Brooks and Dean Rainham from AgFirst looks at pre-harvest steps that anticipate harvest pinch points and will help you maximise your returns in a season like no other.
Who is driving your harvest?
Together they discuss how you can plan and prioritise tasks, manage the harvest window, focus on more profitable blocks and how to get the best out of the available staff.
The opportunities for this year’s harvest are different to other years. This means that tasks need to be prioritised to maximise fruit quality and profitability. Dean presents a decision matrix to help with identifying which tasks are the most important and urgent. Make the important and urgent list as short as possible by planning ahead. Empower your team and delegate. Eliminate – declutter and learn to say no to unimportant tasks.
In the orchard
Determine your harvest window. Do you know each block’s go and stop date?
Understand the rate of change of maturity and that fruit is picked at the correct maturity. Having fruit quality at an optimum and consistent quality will reduce the decision making required around which fruit to pick and which to leave. This will help less experienced pickers. Good canopy design will also help where staff are less experienced. Grade out obvious rejects in the orchard.
Prioritise blocks by profitability, particularly if you do not have enough labour to pick all of the fruit. Know your economic margins for each block. Aim for the highest quality and profitability. The Block Profits summary in OrchardNet™ can be used to rank your blocks by profit. OrchardNet also has a labour planning tool to help with your harvest calendar.
To increase the harvest time and reduce labour peaks, modify the environment by using reflective mulch to bring colour forward or stretch the harvest by delaying maturity with products such as ReTain(R) or Harvista(TM)
Look after your staff
Maximise picking hours by improving performance and capability by investing in training. Provide constructive feedback; perhaps consider a buddy system by connecting more experience staff with those you are new to the job. Match staff to capability – what can they do well? Consider incentives and rewards for high performance or for staff who stay the full season.
Most importantly, learn from the results that you have achieved throughout the year(s) – what has and has not worked – to make improvements for next year.
This presentation is part of the Future Orchards project AP15004 which is funded by Hort Innovation via the apple and pear levy and government contributions.
If you have any questions for the speakers please contact Rose Daniel, APAL Technical Manager.