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Scale Helps Reduce Crop Picking Disputes
Last year, cherry pickers at some orchards in Washington state knew exactly how many pounds of fruit they picked and that they were fairly paid for it, thanks to FairWeigh, an automated in-field weighing system.
  Instead of judging whether a bucket is full for piecework pay, checkers oversee the process of weighing. Records are kept by the pickers scanning their RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags, which save all necessary data to an SD card.
  “There is no estimation. With our system it doesn’t matter if you have 1 lb. or 20 lbs.,” says Dr. Mark De Kleine, a co-owner of MYM Technologies, which sells FairWeigh.
  His partners, Dr. Matt Whiting and Dr. Yiannis Ampatzidis, developed FairWeigh as part of a four-year research project through Washington State University. De Kleine, an agricultural engineer, came on board to develop it into a marketable product in 2015.
  The scale uses a hanging load cell mounted on a wheeled frame. The picker sets the bucket on it and scans his/her RFID badge across an antenna. The process takes as little as five seconds, De Kleine says.
  Owners and pickers appreciated the system’s benefits its first year. It eliminated disagreements between pickers and checkers about whether a bucket was full. Some pickers, who tend to slightly overfill buckets, saw increased wages. Keeping track of per pound pay versus per bucket pay is also more convenient for pickers. If they finish one tree and have less than a full bucket, they can dump it before climbing a ladder to start on another one.
  As the name FairWeigh implies, the system ensures fair pay.
  “In the field, we see that one unit works well with a crew of 15 to 20 people,” De Kleine says. “More than that they have to wait in line.”
  FairWeigh won’t replace checkers, he adds. They are still needed to oversee a crew and prevent fraudulent weighing. Using a scale is not a new idea, but the addition of gathering digital data makes the process faster and more efficient. Picking records are directly uploaded to the payroll program.
  FairWeigh scales sold for about $6,000 in 2015. A revised model is available in 2016, and De Kleine says the goal is to cut the cost in the future and still maintain quality equipment that can be adapted for various terrains and crops.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup: FairWeigh, P.O. Box 1410, Prosser, Wash. 99350 (ph 509 832-1108; www.fairweighs.com; mdk@fairweighs.com).

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #2