Leading New Zealand fresh produce software provider Radfords, which has its base in Tauranga, has overcome some initial global pandemic-related challenges to realign how it engages with global fresh produce businesses. These are showing a renewed enthusiasm to adopt automated pre and post-harvest technologies.
Customer success manager Royce Sharplin said a considerable upswing in the demand for Radfords’ technology solutions in the past nine months had resulted in significant new business wins in Australia and the United States. This followed some challenging times after some sizeable projects were delayed by the uncertainty created by the pandemic and the lockdown conditions.
He cited several drivers prompting the surge of interest from various operators along the fresh produce supply chain, including some from surprising new sectors.
“There’s no doubt, the motivation for change has been exacerbated by coronavirus which has magnified operational inefficiencies for packhouse operators,” Sharplin said.
Struggle for seasonal labour
“Globally, fresh produce suppliers are struggling to find seasonal labour and they have found it harder to get physical labour into the packhouse and move people around due to physical distancing protocols.
“This frustration has forced a scrutiny of systems and a rethink of current system capabilities. Radfords’ FreshPack software is customisable and scaleable to support fresh produce business growth.”
Sharplin said Radfords had continued to strengthen its existing product line-up and industry-specific solutions that facilitated the electronic capture, processing, storage and reporting of information in response to demand.
“The focus on tracking and tracing has never been greater. As global consumers demand healthy and safe produce, fresh produce suppliers need reliable and easy-to-use traceability technologies to support their efforts to meet this demand and assure their long-term survival.
“Radfords has a suite of products that provide full traceability along the supply chain, eliminating the need for paper-based or manual input systems.”
Pandemic-related travel constraints had made new deployments challenging, he said.
“But we’re adapting and utilising technology. For example, we’re working on the introduction of smart glasses which will give us a virtual tour of a packhouse to assess needs.”
New generation pushes for change
He said a new tech-savvy generation working in family owned fresh produce businesses, was also agitating for change.
“Second or third generation producers are approaching us directly as a result of not being able to travel or work offshore. They have grown up with technology and are looking with fresh eyes at ways to optimise systems and processes and add value to the family business,” he said.
Radfords had also experienced increased interest from operators who had outgrown their bespoke systems and urgently needed new systems to grow with them, he said.
Globally, fresh produce suppliers are struggling to find seasonal labour and they have found it harder to get physical labour into the packhouse and move people around due to physical distancing protocols. This frustration has forced a scrutiny of systems and a rethink of current system capabilities.” – Royce Sharplin
Radfords was currently in the scoping phase with a major Australian root vegetable producer and several apple and citrus producers in the United States, he said.
“As there has been an inability to attend trade shows and meet producers face-to-face, we’ve noticed these conversations are starting at a more advanced point. Operators are doing their homework and speaking to like-minded businesses which already have Radfords’ technology.
“We are, however, very excited about hosting new and existing customers at our Hort Connections booth in Brisbane.”
Radfords has extensive experience in New Zealand’s kiwifruit and apple industries, having provided software solutions for packhouse operators since 1989. However, it now has more than 80 clients around the world including Australia, the US, Italy, France, Korea and Japan.
He said Radfords had sharpened its focus on the UX (user experience) of its core existing products during the past year, including the following products to give fresh produce customers a platform for efficiency and growth.
- On-farm FreshGrow
- Packhouse solution, FreshPack
- Business intelligence platform FreshInsights
- Radfords’ cloud-based capability
Radfords’ pandemic-inspired prosperity had generated jobs for an additional six employees at its Tauranga base, including two interns in collaboration with the University of Waikato, he said.
“We’ve also had to contract resources in Australia to support and absorb the extra work and will look to have more feet on the ground in the US this year,” he said.