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Labour management tech brings grape picking into 21st century

Technology

A vineyard labour management system to improve efficiency for growers and transparency for pickers is scaling up to be rolled out across Australia.

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Key Contacts

Mark Snelgrove

General Manager Taglog

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The Taglog system uses cloud-based technology to track the productivity of grape pickers in the field to ensure they are paid correctly while holding them accountable for the quality of their work.

Accessible through a mobile app, Taglog uses RFID (radio frequency identification), time and GPS stamps and displays them on a real-time operating platform that enables simple piece rate payroll and invoicing.

The startup has been spun out of Adelaide Hills viticulture services business Group Logistics, which is also known as GLOG.

Field trials of the system began in 2014 after GLOG Managing Director Charles Rosback decided to move the company’s pickers from hourly rate to piecework payments to address productivity issues.

Traditional piecework in viticulture has involved giving workers a token such as a pop stick every time they returned a bucket full of grapes.

The initial Taglog system used QR codes to identify the buckets picked by individual workers but Rosback said this was problematic because the worker had no receipt of the work, such as a pop stick.

“Some of the groups wanted to stay with the pop sticks so we gave them a pop stick and we scanned using Taglog at the same time and at the end of the day the number of pop sticks they handed over was always less than what they had on the screen,” he said.

“They quickly understood that this is a digital technology that provides transparency for the grower and the picker and more importantly it means they can get paid before they leave the vineyard.

“The three things growers were looking for were cost, efficiency and quality and this ticks all of those boxes.”

GLOG works with vignerons throughout the Adelaide Hills and surrounding regions as far north as Clare and south to the Coonawarra.

Last vintage, Taglog completed a 30-month trial across 28 Adelaide Hills vineyards to validate the technology. Of those sites, 20 have gone on to become Taglog customers.

Rosback said Taglog currently had about 30 clients including Jim Barry, The Lane and Henschke with a further 35 ready to “lock on”. He said clients were mainly vineyards with a handful of others involved in picking apples, pears, strawberries and cherries.

The push for new clients coincides with the introduction of labour hire licensing laws, which came into effect in South Australia on November 1, and the lead up to the 2020 grape harvest.

“There’s a really simple induction process – the technology is not foreign because we all live on our phones – and on the back end we can help,” Rosback said.

“There is a small window of opportunity for picking but this actually extends into pruning as well and other scenarios.

Rosback said the ability to electronically tie each bucket to a specific worker also helped control quality.

He said the vineyards using the Taglog system during harvest experienced increases in the amount of money workers take home, decreases in the cost of picking grapes and increased margins.

“Very rarely in any situation do you see a win, win, win so we were fortunate to be able to experience that.

“We scan the worker and we scan the bucket so we tie that bucket to that worker for a period of time. When a bucket arrives at the trailer and we discover that it’s full of leaves then we can scan that bucket to see who picked it.

“On the back end we can see every worker in the vineyard, what time they logged on, how many buckets they picked, how many hours they worked and by putting in the rate we are paying them or the contractor per bucket we can determine the equivalent hourly rate we are paying that person and the average hourly rate that group has earned.

“The people who want to work hard under this system are earning a lot more money and the people who don’t go and work for an hourly rate for somebody else, which means we get all the best workers.”

Taglog was among seven wine tech startups to participate in the inaugural FOMENT program billed as ‘Australia’s wine and tourism tech revolution’ in Adelaide last month.

Funded by the South Australian Government and hosted by Flinders University, Hydra Consulting and Wine Industry Suppliers Australia, the seven companies were put through an intensive three weeks focused on industry connection, market validation, global scaling and prototyping using Industry 4.0 processes.

Taglog has also established a presence at Stone & Chalk’s co-working space in Adelaide’s Lot Fourteen innovation neighbourhood.

Taglog General Manager Mark Snelgrove said the FOMENT program helped him discover that Taglog needed some kind of partnering or investment to take it to the next level.

“It’s a critical time for us to be part of a program like FOMENT because it allowed us to understand our business model, critique it, be critiqued and then put a strategy in place to help us understand what we need to do to activate the next level of the Taglog business.

“Our business model is for the domestic market at the moment so while we’ve got some opportunities to go to the export market we haven’t got the business model to suit that right now but with the right investor we could certainly scale up pretty quickly.”

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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