How Hoddy’s Fruit Company said goodbye to paper-based payroll, quality control, bin tickets, and record-keeping by switching to the Hectre Orchard Management App.

Time-savings. Accessible real-time information. Improved record keeping. Better staff management.

Hoddy’s Fruit Company is a 4th generation vertically-integrated apple orchard located at the top of New Zealand’s South Island.


Hoddy’s grow and pack apples on approximately 55 hectares (136 acres) for fruit marketer RD8. The company has an annual production of around 10,000 bins and employs close to 100 people in the packhouse and 50 people in the orchard.


Hoddy’s Fruit Company has been growing high-quality apples for around 100 years, with “Quality without compromise” as their motto. “We really want quality to be the key consumer experience, as we realise we are competing against chocolate and ice cream, plus other fruits, so our apples have got to be top-notch!” – Orchard Production Manager Canaan Balck.

We sat down with Hoddy’s Fruit Company Orchard Production Manager Canaan Balck to discuss how Hectre has supported them in their success.

The Inefficiency Of Paper

It’s been about five years since we came out of the dark ages and decided to embrace technology on the orchard. For just over half of the time I’ve worked here, everything was done by pen and paper, which was a drain on my time and not the most accurate way to keep track of everything.

The old way was very time-consuming, with everyone spending lots of their time filling out paper.

Plenty of hours were spent, including weekends, and especially at harvest time, writing bin tallies, checking bin cards, and doing the payroll. There would also be duplicates of all that information. Overall, it meant about two hours of my weekend was spent doing paperwork, which definitely wore thin by the end of the harvest.


Reading people’s handwriting – especially my own – is also an issue when you rely on pen and paper for your record keeping. Sometimes we couldn’t read a bin card, or there might be a scribble in the tractor book that looks like a three but could be an eight. The pay administrator would be left to decipher the handwriting and run the payroll.


So it was a very manual process, with the payroll administrator probably spending an extra two or three hours a week to input all the information. Supervisors were also spending time filling out and checking the timesheets, which during busier times, meant about 10 hours of extra work per supervisor. I know most of our supervisors were pretty sick of it by the end of the harvest.

A More Efficient Payroll

We have been using Hectre’s Timesheets and Payroll module for several years now. We don’t have paper-based timesheets anymore, and we’re saving about 10-15 hours a week during the busier times and 4-5 hours a week when it is quieter.


I certainly appreciate having more free time at the weekend now.

We can save up to 15 hours a week now with Hectre.

A More Efficient Orchard

Like the payroll, orchard jobs were tracked very manually with pen and paper. Supervisors needed to write out each bin ticket with the picker’s name, the variety, and the block. The tractor driver would also record what they had taken into the shade shed, and that record would be used as a backstop to double-check and sort out any issues.

With Hectre, we simply open the app and all of the information is there.

Time-wise, if you can imagine writing out people’s names, plus the varieties, blocks, and dates, that’s about a minute per card. Then, if there were any errors, you had all these bin tickets to sift through to find out what went wrong.


With Hectre, it only takes a few seconds to print out a bin card, and we don’t need to make phone calls to track down information. Instead, you just open the app to see what’s going on. And our packhouse staff and tractor driver can also check the app to see how many bins have been ticketed and whatnot.

Reliable Quality Control

With our previous system, our QC was done by recording defects or damage on a piece of A4 paper, one for each picker. You would end up with stacks of A4 paper, some that would get covered in mud or end up in the back of a truck somewhere, and some with handwriting that was difficult to read.

Reliable QC records help ensure we have the highest quality fruit and that we compete in markets that are increasingly asking for more accurate QC tracking.

In the past five years, there has been a push towards providing more accurate QC records, especially in certain markets, and for pest and disease control. So when the QC information is not legible or not properly recorded, it makes it quite hard at the auditing end. QC is really important to ensure we have the highest quality fruit, and it also makes us more competitive in markets that are increasingly asking for more accurate QC tracking.


With Hectre’s QC module, with just the touch of a button I have access to all the QC information from across the orchard and packhouse.

Hectre’s QC module means I have access to all the QC information from across the business and the reporting is a great tool for better staff and time management.

Easily Accessible Real-Time Information

Having access to real-time information is hugely beneficial. With a paper-based system, you could never know exactly how things were tracking or whether there were issues that needed to be addressed until much later. So you might end up assuming things like whether a tree has been pruned or not. When you have access to real-time payroll and block information, it’s not guesswork anymore.

I also find Hectre’s reports really useful, mainly because they are in real-time. So for targets and budgets, everything that a manager has to deal with, it’s great to go into Hectre and see how many hours have been spent pruning a block or whatever the job may be. I can see how we are tracking, whether we’ve spent too long on a job or whether we are on track. So Hectre allows us to stay on top of things, and it’s a great tool for better staff and time management.

Switching to Tech

We were among the first growers to start using Hectre after having met the team when Hectre was in its infancy stage. We gave them plenty of feedback on what we thought an orchard management system could do for our operation, liked the consultation process, and decided to give Hectre a crack. And we’ve been loyal customers ever since.

Even one of our workers who retired last week picked it up really quickly.

There were a few concerns about implementing technology, mainly around relying on it, such as what happens if the data gets lost or wiped. Thankfully, even in the infancy stages, Hectre was very reliable. If there was an issue, it was always easy to get hold of the Hectre team and resolve the issue.


There was a bit of hesitation from some of our older staff members about using the technology, but we generally found that once they tried it, they soon got the hang of it. We had one of our workers retire last week, and he picked it up really quickly and actually really enjoyed using Hectre.

What would you say to other growers thinking about getting Hectre?

The time-savings, along with better record keeping and real-time access to information with Hectre, have been a game-changer for us.

With Hectre, the time-savings, along with better record keeping and real-time access to information, have been a game-changer for us.

There is also a boost to productivity from having more time to do more critical things rather than spending it on payroll or writing out bin tickets.


I think the key is to be open and give it a try. All of our supervisors who have used Hectre over the years would say they don’t want to go back to a pen-and-paper system. And if I was given the option to go back to paper, let’s just say I would politely decline!

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