March 26, 2015 By Treena Hein
When it was “born” in 2007 in Eastern Ontario, Fruit Tracker was a simple CD-based program created to reduce the amount of time apple and berry growers were spending on documenting food safety and traceability for CanadaGap. In 2011, it experienced a growth spurt and now it’s all grown up, a sleek and powerful cloud-based system that tracks all orchard data year round, in one place, at growers’ fingertips when needed. Its graduation to adulthood has nabbed the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers Marketing Board (OTFPMB) a 2014 Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.
The OTFPMB describes Fruit Tracker as a record keeping and orchard management system that helps growers keep accurate records of production, food and worker safety and pest control.
“All Ontario tender fruit producer members are able to have their own private account on Fruit Tracker, accessed with login and passcode,” says OTFPMB manager Sarah Marshall. “The first step to getting started is to sign up to have your orchards GPS mapped by Agricorp. They will then input all that data, and you can get started on working with it immediately after you set up your account.”
Marshall notes that as with any other software program, Fruit Tracker requires a little time to get used to, but once you are familiar with it, it’s simple. Growers are able to generate cost of production reports by block, create production practice modules, integrate WIN weather data, and input/track packing and shipping events. More features are being developed as we speak, and an iPad Fruit Tracker scouting app is being created as well.
In terms of pest management, Fruit Tracker offers a drop-down list that shows existing treatments from Publication 360, including chemical name, formulation, rates and target pest.
“You add the details for your spray event, and Fruit Tracker can send you alerts by email when re-entry intervals have passed or when it’s safe to harvest,” Marshall explains. “An exciting feature is the chemical inventory – you input your current inventory, record purchases and the program keeps track of what’s in your spray shed.”
An All Events tab gives a quick look of all the events that you have recorded from spray application, employee training, harvest, storage to building assessments. The system also uses all this information in completing your CanadaGap required reports.
In terms of the biggest challenges of the developing the system to its present state, Marshall points to the modules.
“In creating them, it was a challenge to ensure we were thinking beyond the immediate and anticipating future needs,” she says. “It’s also been a challenge to get broader grower adoption. To help with this, we used a grower-based focus group to ensure the needs of growers were addressed. Pilot programs were also done to work out the kinks and show growers that the system could save them time and money.”
Marshall says those growers who’ve fully adopted Fruit Tracker are extremely pleased with it and say they cannot function without it now. She’s also heard many say the biggest benefits of the system are the way it cuts report creation time, and the way it increases a grower’s knowledge of his or her operation. The way orchard data is stored, organized and analyzed for handy reference allows growers to increase their operational efficiency and to reduce costs. When asked about the cost savings the system could provide, Marshall says she cannot be sure.
“Time is money and it’s really in the streamlining of reporting where it saves the most and this is difficult to put a number on,” she explains. “Each grower would have a different result.”
The software is owned by Kingston-based DragonFly Information Technology. President Matt Deir says the program is currently available to about 1,000 growers in Ontario, including members of the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers, Ontario Apple Growers, and the Grape Growers of Ontario.
“The system is also being piloted in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Nova Scotia, and Quebec, and there has been interest from as far away as New Zealand and Australia,” he says. “We are very excited about its potential for these and other regions. The system has been designed to scale automatically in the cloud, and so is capable of supporting potentially millions of growers globally.”
He adds that many regional and national food chains have been on site with growers who use the software and have been very impressed with its focus on traceability, with food safety being a top priority in the grocery businesses.
Regarding the Premier’s Award win, Marshall says it’s wonderful to be recognized for all the hard work and forward thinking.
“Our main task now is expanding grower adoption, and we hope to have the majority of commercial production on the system in the next year or two. We also want to continue to incorporate new modules, which will also help increase number of growers that want to use the system.” Their next project is a ‘Cost of Production’ module that is being jointly developing with the Ontario Apple Growers.
Fruit Tracker features:
PHI/REI Email Notifications per Block – Fruit Tracker can send you emails when your treatment PHI and/or REI has passed, letting you know if it is safe to re-enter or harvest.
Treatments and Tank Mixes – Fruit Tracker comes loaded with more than 100 treatments from OMAFRA’s Publication 360, including tank mixes and rates to treat individual pests during certain growth stages of your production. Find the right treatment is fast and easy, and you can select one while recording a spray to save even more time when entering a record into the system.
Resistance Management – Special reports and warnings let you know if you are reaching the maximum recommended number of treatments for a chemical. It works at the block level, so you always know which blocks you can and can’t treat again with a specific chemical.
Chemical Lists with Product Labels – PHI/REI, maximum recommended treatments per year, chemical family, PCP# and other information is available on over 6500 chemicals in the system – all updated automatically throughout the year.
Reports – Slice and dice all of your data to get a greater understanding of your chemical use, pests and easily generate spray reports of activity by date range, blocks/orchards, target pests, and chemicals. Print or save as a PDF and email.
PHI/REI Calculations per Tank/Spray – Fruit Tracker automatically calculates the PHI/REI of your tank mix, reporting in hours, days, and with a specific date – no need to do all the math yourself.
Manage Spray Equipment – By adding information about your spray equipment once, you can tell the system you used it when recording a spray, and it will automatically fill in the correct sprayer configuration information for you. It’s easy to add your equipment, and saves you time when you are recording sprays.
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