Affinitus aspires to take growing and packing software to new levels

Affinitus 4

Affinitus is about to roll out the latest version of its fresh produce technical management software Agrilogik to two British grower-packers in a move that marks a new push for the Kent-based specialist fresh produce software developer. Following a period of innovation, Affinitus recently updated Agrilogik to be an ‘easy-to-use, functionality-filled system’ that makes life easier for both growers and packhouse operators. PBUK looks into the benefits that users can expect to experience.

“Technology has caught up with what customers needed years ago, and we have really pushed on in terms of our business management software for fresh produce,” Ian Parfitt, the commercial director at Affinitus, begins by saying. “We’ve made a major investment, and worked in close cooperation with our clients, to upgrade our complete range of solutions (Freshware, Agrilogik and Chefserve) to Version 7 with the very latest development in computing language – what they class as the .NET framework.”

In simple terms, Parfitt says the latest update provides a cleaner look and feel to the user’s screen, while programmes run more efficiently. Data is displayed in real time and in an intuitive manner, making it appear much like a mobile application. In addition to setting different hierarchies of user-level security, users can configure the screen to their own style, meaning they can click and hide fields or different sets of information for a tailored display.

Phased upgrades to Version 7 will roll out this year across the Freshware, Agrilogik and Chefserve systems offered by Affinitus. The company has just taken a new order for the Version 7 of Chefserve from Ralph Livesey, a Preston-based foodservice distributor supplying hotels, school, restaurants and hospitals in the north-west.

And after securing new capital contracts with two UK fresh produce grower-packers during the latter part of 2017, Affinitus is preparing for the updated Agrilogik application to go live at these two businesses as early as May or June this year.

“We’ve been contracted by a major supplier of brassicas to retailer Tesco, called TH Clements, which is based in Lincolnshire, while the other new client is an active supplier of produce to Sainsbury’s who prefers to keep a low profile,” Parfitt tells PBUK.

“The grower-packer domain is a new area of the market for Affinitus, beyond what we do now. It’s a focus we want to push on with via Agrilogik because we believe it’s the answer to field-to-shelf technical management software for fresh produce.

“It’s easy to use, it increases efficiencies to save time, it helps with traceability, and it allows users to track products and to make informed decisions quicker, whether their product is being grown, planted, picked, packed or going through quality control.” 

Grower requirements: TH Clements

Affinitus has seen a growth in demand from growers, packers and foodservice operators for advanced software that enables them to accurately plan ahead, cut costs, eliminate delays and control quality, as well as to accurately forecast yields. 

“Currently, the software used by these types of operators and many of the solutions offered by our competitors are outdated and low on functionality, which stunts the production capacity of many grower-packers,” he comments, adding that this is where the upgraded Agrilogik and Chefserve systems will come into their own.

Indeed, vegetable grower-supplier TH Clements is in the process of updating its software to the latest version of Agrilogik now that its existing system has reached 15 years old. 

“Although our prior software was fit for purpose back then, we needed to change to an up-to-date, modern software package,” Nick French, TH Clements’ finance director, explains to PBUK.

“There is a need for greater data collection to enable a more comprehensive analysis of the costs of operation within each part of the business.”

French says the focus of TH Clements’ decision to contract Affinitus was predominantly due to the on-site requirements that Agrilogik could satisfy.

“Moving away from an access database to a .NET platform provides greater capability for Affinitus to provide tailored solutions to meet individual business needs, which we saw as a strategic advantage.

“Once fully established for our business, Agrilogik will give [TH Clements] the capability for in-field data collection and the potential to provide complete field and plot costing. It provides a fully-integrated suite from start to finish to suit our business needs.

“We also liked the Affinitus software because it has a very clear and straightforward user interface. And, you can make use of Android functionality for any data collection.”

As a result, Agrilogik should allow TH Clements to gain a “tighter control” over what’s happening operationally, according to French. 

“It should enable us to gain a step-change improvement in data collection, analysis and information review of our farming operations,” he comments. 

“The business should get a more accurate and complete understanding of the costs of growing each of our crop types, which, in turn, should enable us to identify any areas of improvement that we can make. It should help with the efficiency of business operation.” 

Packer experience: Cottage Farms

As well as helping to manage information regarding planting and harvesting processes, quality assurance and its associated documentation, Agrilogik also handles quality control data in the packhouse, and labour force management regulations.

Kent-based topfruit packer Cottage Farms, which forms part of the Avalon Produce group, has been using Agrilogik for almost two years. Previously, the firm manually entered all warehouse and packing information into spreadsheets.

Georgi Belov, production manager at Cottage Farms, says the “user-friendly” system has delivered wide-ranging benefits. “Every single team and department is benefiting from the software,” he claims.

“The impact was immediate. All stock is now updated in real time, which allows for better control over quality and quantity of product. Duplication of information is greatly reduced as all production details, such as quantity packed, stock used and line efficiency, is entered directly at the point of packing in real time.

“One of my favourite features is I can drag all the reports for production, stats for sales, profit, production cost, packaging and product waste with our customers seeing the live report, which is beneficial on a daily basis.”

Agrilogik’s usage extends to hand-held devices that log information, whether staff are in the field or the packhouse. That data is automatically transferred from the device to the user’s ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution to provide real-time scenarios for decision-making.

“Picking of orders is done using hand-held units, which means the finished product is exactly matched to a sales order, and there is full traceability from the farm to the customer,” Belov says.

“As all sales picking is done in real time and updated, so an accurate display of the status of any order can be viewed simply and easily at any point in the day.”

Belov points out that Agrilogik is also able to communicate with other ERP systems in the Avalon Group (such as Freshware) to allow for automatic downloading and uploading of sales orders, and other vital information.

“With the auto upload and allocation we have saved our admin team at least six hours per day,” he exclaims.

Standing out 

Having completed the tender process with TH Clements last year, Parfitt says the experience spoke volumes about the benefits offered by the latest version of Agrilogik.

“It gave us a real indication that we’re doing something right,” he explains. “From the start, we presented the fact that we have a lot of functionality, which is a result of investing in our operating system over the last 26 years, and regularly upgrading to the most advanced technology.

“We endeavour to be proactive, and that sets us apart. Affinitus has a nimble and dynamic management structure that comprises Paul Hardy, Lana Korzhuk and myself. Between ourselves, we can make decisions quite easily and quickly, so we can commit to further innovation. 

“We also offer a personal approach and strive to understand the needs of every business – that’s what TH Clements and many other customers like.”

To find out more about Affinitus and its software, visit Ian and the team at The London Produce Show and Conference 2018 on June 6-8 at the Grosvenor House hotel in London.

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