AN astute online entrepreneur has created a platform to help growers streamline their contracts to one of the major supermarket chains.
Chris D'Aloisio has been piloting the small business, Easy Produce Quotes, for the past three years.
The business is for growers who have to submit quotes to Woolworths on a weekly basis.
"We've replaced their existing PDF form with a web version that saves larger suppliers hours each week," Mr D'Aloisio said.
The idea first came about when a grower approached him with a desire to cut back on the amount of time spent providing weekly prices to Woolworths.
- New digital trading platform launched for horticulture sector
- FruitsApp looks to expand global online fresh produce trading
- Produce auctions go online
"As one of their primary suppliers of fresh fruit, he showed me that using the existing form that Woolworths had provided was taking hours, simply because of the choice of technology - PDF forms," Mr D'Aloisio said.
"Upon looking at the form details, I could see that the data was actually transmitted in a different format and thought, surely a fast, interactive web form would be better at capturing this information. Turns out I was right."
Helping push Mr D'Aloisio's interest in working within the horticulture industry was his background growing up on an orchard in the Yarra Valley, Victoria.
His grandparents came out from Italy after the war and moved to the Yarra Valley to begin cultivating crops.
Mr D'Aloisio's parents then took that on and purchased their own orchard in Seville.
He subsequently grew up surrounded by a strong family work ethic in growing apples, peaches, nectarines, cherries, strawberries and other crops.
"I always saw hard working families as I was growing up around other fruit and vegetable growers," he said.
"I was always was attracted to technology as a way to help people reduce the amount of work they needed to do that could be automated - because time is so precious to farm life."
We can now just focus on getting our pricing to Woolworths on time and without issues.
Red Rich Fruits director, Michael Napoleone, said the software made sense.
"Working with Easy Produce Quotes has saved us up to five hours a week dealing with slow and frustrating PDF forms," he said.
"We can now just focus on getting our pricing to Woolworths on time and without issues."
Montague category manager for apples and pears, Michael Russo, said the company was very pleased after running a week-long trial.
"This has made managing the multiple PDFs that we had for each state significantly easier and our staff are able to spend their time on more productive tasks," Mr Russo said.
While there are currently just 10 suppliers using the software full time, Mr D'Aloisio said he hoped word would spread to help growers manage their time.
"I hope that business managers look to technology for making efficiency improvements in their business so they can put people into positions where they are doing much more valuable work," he said.
"As it has been such a great success for the suppliers, I'd like to see what opportunities it might present to work with the supermarkets and bring in the web as a delivery mechanism for their data with growers and suppliers.
"I think it would produce a lot of goodwill on behalf of the supermarkets and in turn be appreciated by the people who need to use these solutions on an almost daily basis.
It will take time for growers to embrace the digital space. It's often one of the last things that is considered, unfortunately.
Online platforms, including trading software, have increasingly been introduced into the Australian horticulture landscape.
Mr D'Aloisio said he felt that technology adoption would continue.
"It will take time for growers to embrace the digital space. It's often one of the last things that is considered, unfortunately," he said.
"But I'd like to see more people realise that the more they can automate repetitive tasks, the more time and money they'll have to invest in the core of their business."
Not one to rest, Mr D'Aloisio is looking at expanding Easy Produce Quotes to provide some detailed graphs and metrics about pricing and seasonality over time.
"This can help with many other processes like financial, resource and volume planning in the coming seasons," he said.
"There has also been some interest from growers and suppliers to streamline other very manual paperwork processes that they currently perform on a daily basis.
"It is something that is a pain point for many of them and automating those can lead to huge cost savings and reduced errors as a result so they can concentrate on providing the best quality product for consumers."