Fruit picking goes digital at Costa Group with Microsoft partner Comunet

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Fruit picking goes digital at Costa Group with Microsoft partner Comunet

IT solutions provider Comunet has digitised the fruit picking process for Australia's leading fruit and vegetable producer using Microsoft technology.

Costa Group is Australia’s leading horticultural company  and is a major grower of berries, citrus, mushrooms, glasshouse tomatoes and avocados. The company is always on the lookout to make its production more efficient through utilising the latest technology,  however due to the lack of internet connectivity at its remote berry picking locations fruit yield was still being recorded the old fashioned way on paper.

Coupled together with the challenge of a manual payroll system, Costa needed to not only digitise its reporting and payroll process, it also required an automated solution that would work in an environment with little to no internet connectivity.

In stepped Comunet, which previously worked with a mushroom grower that was acquired by Costa. Comunet took on the challenge after being referred to the berry division.

The Adelaide solutions provider developed the harvest management solution (HMS) and customised yield recording to manage the crop and location data using a suite of applications.

Yield is recorded on ruggedised Panasonic Toughpad tablets connected to weight indicators and Symbol barcode scanners. The HMS captures kilograms of fruit picked and the time employees have worked and automates payroll based on the recoded data.

HMS sends data back to Costa's platform based on Microsoft technologies, including SQL Server products, Windows 10, .NET services, as well as Intermec label printers and Preceda payroll software.

The solution can also be operated out in the field with limited or no internet connection. Data is stored in a local database and reported back to Costa once it connects to a 3G or 4G service. The tablets can work for up to seven days without synchronisation before having to be synched back to the central Microsoft SQL server. HMS is also backed by a business intelligence solution built on the Microsoft platform.

Paper-based production was removed within three months of rolling out the HMS. Costa can now report on variations over time in its yield and be able to make decisions about performance enhancements based on data.

Costa's Amapole Phoonie and Matthew Vella said: “Comunet performed admirably, wanting to treat our business like their own. This sets the springboard to continue the rollout of this solution not only to the berries division but to Costa’s other produce streams.”

Costa is also considering developing a variant of HMS for some of its other produce divisions.

Comunet is a finalist in the Workforce Empowerment category at the 2017 CRN Impact Awards. The full list of finalists were announced at our CRN Pipeline conference in Melbourne on 22-23 March. The winners will be announced at the Impact Awards dinner during the CRN Pipeline conference in Sydney on 6-7 April.

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