T&G Kerikeri Case Study

With Grower Damian Duggan-Jones

1. Tell me a bit about your business.

Well, I’ve always been in the horticulture industry and five years ago I moved up here to start growing for T&G, which is an iconic Kiwi company that both grows fresh produce and partners with other growers to export fresh fruit and vegetables.

2. What is it that makes your business different and special?

T&G has its own orchards, where we grow citrus (lemons, mandarins, oranges) and blueberries. We also gather supplies out of Northland and Waikato. Essentially, we own, grow, and market fruit. This is what makes T&G special, because we have skin in every part of the game. By being a grower, marketer, and everything in between, the whole supply chain basically, we’ve been able to forge relationships with businesses in other countries and have a thorough knowledge of every aspect.

3. What was the problem, or problems, that were causing you frustration (even if you had just accepted them as a fact of life)?

The major challenge was during our harvest period, which is from January to the end of March and beginning of April. We have a significant number of pickers. The challenge was “How do we pay them efficiently?” Fairness and productivity were two key considerations.

We pay on a picking rate, paying per kilogram. This incentivises pickers to work quickly, as opposed to being paid hourly, which can hamper productivity. The challenge was how to accurately record the information of each person.

We started with group measuring output and have now moved to individual measurements. The group measurement wasn’t fair, because some pickers would pick less than the average, while top performers wouldn’t receive individual credit for their efforts.

It’s a lot easier to manage with a small number of pickers, but as we’ve grown, admin has become more complicated. Many of our workers are from the Pacific workforce, and so many of them have very complex names. This has created accuracy issues. Plus, people had to service the pickers coming in. This created a bottleneck.

Dataphyll has sped up our process by automatically getting the right person, with the correct employee number, and logging the correct weight. No name typing, waiting for a scale, or entering records manually.

4. What most impressed you about Dataphyll - what really stood out to you?

Their technical support is on point. Really responsive. You can tell they really wanted to make their product work, that they have that drive. In the last two years, the product has been working well. If something has gone wrong, Dataphyll would answer the phone immediately and send a person out.

When getting set up initially, they’d send someone here every day, driving an hour and a half to get here. They’re very dedicated to providing quality.

5. Have there been any unexpected benefits from Dataphyll post-purchase? Things that may have been a pleasant and welcome surprise.

Dataphyll does what it says it does. Having been with Dataphyll for a while, we have a high expectation of how it should work. I’ll say this – if I had to purchase it today, I would be very impressed.

When we first started, we had about 120 pickers. Today we have 60, and some days between 75 to 100. Overall, we need fewer pickers thanks to greater efficiency from Dataphyll. It’s also becoming harder to find staff, which makes the need for less workers extra valuable.

Our orchards are producing more every year despite our number of pickers being relatively stable.

6. What has life been like after Dataphyll?

Our bottlenecks have been relieved. The fruit is coming through very smoothly, and our kilos per hour are increasing constantly.

7. Do you think it has given you a competitive edge? If so, how?

Yes. Dataphyll is doing something quite unique in New Zealand. It’s funny nobody else identified this as a product. The NZ industry is seeing significant growth, but only Dataphyll has thought to create a tool like this. By using Dataphyll, we have an advantage over every operation that isn’t, because it’s guaranteed they aren’t using an alternative NZ-based solution. The alternatives are mostly international and aren’t fine-tuned to New Zealand’s growing.

8. Is there anything that we have not covered that you would like to mention?

Yes. Dataphyll is always trying to use more modern technology e.g., at one stage we used wrist tags to scan people in. Over five years and multiple iterations of the weigh stations, we’ve had new UHF chips or scanners here and there. Dataphyll is constantly on the move with evolving technology. They’re focused on staying ahead of the curve, innovating all the time, and meeting growers’ expectations.

They’re also very accommodating. For example, we needed the format of the picker weigh-in CSV files configured a certain way because of our systems and they were happy to customise it to our needs. If you need customisation, they will accommodate you happily.