Four Labor Challenges in Fresh Food and How to Address them with Automation

Every industry has its own specific challenges, but the greatest global challenge remains feeding and being able to continue to feed our population. And this process takes place daily, everywhere around the globe, making the fresh food market fast and complicated. Specific challenges keep cropping up in the Fresh Food sector – especially in labor management. As we see it, these are the top four challenges in fresh food labor management.

Fresh Food Labor Management Challenge #1: Labor Shortage

We are short staffed across the board… pickers, truck drivers, engineers, machine operators, and it’s serious, it is hindering growth.
-Larry Olsen Wisconsin Vegetable Grower

Fresh Food Labor Management Challenge #2: H-2A Legislation

Labor is the biggest challenge for growers, said John Teeple, owner of Teeple Farms, Wolcott, N.Y., and the H-2A program has rules that don’t make sense.

For example, Teeple said the H-2A program has a requirement that growers must advertise in newspapers for domestic apple pickers before being able to use the H-2A program. In early August, growers in the region advertised in the local paper for about 500 apple pickers, he said. “It is a perfect example that there just isn’t 500 people available and looking, waiting for us to give them a job. New York needs about 8,000 H-2A workers and Washington state needs about 45,000″ he said.  Teeple continued by stating,“Maybe someday, the powers that be will understand that agriculture needs labor and they will stop making it so difficult for us”.

Fresh Food Labor Management Challenge #3: Wage and hour regulations

Many small companies run afoul of the law when it comes to paying overtime properly and classifying employees as exempt or non-exempt.

That’s why it’s vital to keep time and attendance records accurate and current, per Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules and any similar state law, and properly document safety trainings and compliance per applicable federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation

Fresh Food Labor Management Challenge #4: Succession

The young and ambitious do not see Agriculture as an exciting opportunity. It isn’t as ‘sexy’ as IT. And with a lack of trainees, the leaders of tomorrow are not being trained. However, when the younger generation does join the fresh food management team, fresh with new ideas and familiar with technology, they are keen to make an impact. As the ‘old guard’ stands down in favor of youth, technology adoption increases.

How Automation Can Help

With the labor challenges detailed above, demand for automation is on the increase, particularly on the factory floor, out in the fields and in the offices. Machines to automate picking are becoming available but not universally. For example, there is little automation that can yet help pick strawberries.

And as we have seen above, investing millions in automation is only worthwhile if you can get the staff to man it.

Out in the fields the use of hand held computer technology is on the rise – vital in an environment where real time data collection is essential. But, that said, the nature of farming means we are not often blessed with good communications network coverage, so hand held technology needs to be able to ‘synch’ automatically and seamlessly, so that data collection continues even when the internet signal decays.

Velosio FRESH

To growers, packers and shippers of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables, Velosio FRESH is the supply chain solution that digitizes and modernizes production and distribution from field to fork. Through automated transactions, data cleanliness and operational transparency, Velosio FRESH prepares you for audit or compliance checks.

Velosio FRESH connects, captures and delivers all your fresh food labor management and business data in real time from one end of the supply chain to the other.

With the combined power of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and LINKFRESH, fresh food distributors are equipped with audit-ready data to remain compliant with legislation and standards thanks to traceability. Velosio FRESH ensures food safety and quality assurance with real-time data capture and retrieval.

For more information, download our whitepaper which details fresh food labor management challenges and how best to address them.

Best regards,

Todd Waterman
Industry Manager, Agribusiness, Velosio

About Todd
Todd Waterman has spent over 17 years in IT for Agribusiness, including at his own consulting firm, and as Chief Administration Officer for EuroAmerican Propogators in California. From start-ups to enterprise-class organizations, his knowledge of the agribusiness ecosystem and products helps Velosio customers Todd Watermanmaximize ROI on technology investments.

Today, Todd serves Velosio customers in his role as Industry Manager for Agribusiness. Todd is based in sunny California, and received his BA from San Diego State University in San Diego, California.

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