Discover how fifth-generation New York apple grower Kast Farms leveraged the Hectre App to enhance their QC processes, improve efficiencies, reduce labor costs, and utilize more reliable data for more informed decision-making.


Better QC. Powerful Insights. Streamlined Efficiency. Geo-Tagged Harvest Tracking. Easily Accessible, Real-Time Data. Enhanced Farm Management.

Established in 1885, Kast Farms is a fifth-generation family-owned and operated agricultural business nestled in the picturesque western part of New York State, just five miles south of Lake Ontario. The business stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of the Kast family, growing and adapting over the years to meet the demands of the ever-changing agricultural landscape.

Today, the farm is managed by brothers Brett and John Kast, who oversee a diversified operation spanning around 4,500 acres (1,821 hectares). Their land is home to approximately 500 acres (202 hectares) of apple trees, 20 acres (8 hectares) of cherries, and a diverse assortment of crops like corn, peas, wheat, and barley spread across the remaining acres. The Kast brothers work with several different marketers and packers, selling their high-quality produce throughout the United States and Canada.

Navigating evolving labor laws, particularly the gradual reduction in overtime thresholds, is currently their most pressing challenge. In response to this, they are focused on modernizing their orchards, incorporating labor-saving technologies, and mechanizing wherever possible. Looking to the future, their strategy focuses on achieving a balance between efficiency and manageable growth.

We caught up with Brett Kast to gain insights into how Kast Farms utilizes the Hectre Farm Management app.

Embracing Change

Initially, I was reluctant to introduce technology onto the farm, as I’m typically averse to change. However, when our neighbor began using Hectre, and we talked to their Hectre sales rep, we realized a shift was needed to improve our operational efficiencies and tracking.

We were particularly attracted to Hectre’s capability to geo-tag bins in the field, create yield maps, and address block-specific issues. With our previous experience in GPS and yield mapping for field crops, integrating such precision into our fruit operations felt like a natural progression.

I’m typically averse to change, but quickly realized the value in being able to geo-track the harvest on the Hectre app.

Another key consideration was the simplicity of Hectre’s payroll and timesheet system. We were all too familiar with the time-consuming manual processing during the harvest season, dedicating about two hours every night for two straight months. After repeatedly dealing with discrepancies from numerous handwritten slips, we eagerly embraced a more efficient solution.

With Hectre, we can track costs, identify high-performing blocks, and pinpoint areas where efficiency can be improved.

The ability to track costs, identify high-performing blocks, and pinpoint areas where efficiency could be improved with the Hectre app was another deciding factor. With the app, we have access to precise and easily analyzed data, empowering us to make informed decisions and drive greater efficiency.

In the end, it was the complete package that Hectre offered that sealed the deal. As we started implementing Hectre and training our team, we uncovered even more ways to boost efficiencies. It has been empowering to see our supervisors and quality control personnel become innovative with the platform, utilizing it to devise new operational approaches.

Elevating Quality Control with Hectre

Every day we’re working on the farm, we benefit from the portability of the Hectre app and its ability to provide real-time access to QC information. Our quality control personnel can easily inspect, tag, and record QC information on the go. The process is quick and effortless, providing us with a digital record that informs our decision-making and maximizes efficiencies.

With Hectre we can monitor picker performance throughout the season, gaining data-driven insights for targeted improvements.

For example, having accurate, easy-to-access QC data on the Hectre app enhances our ability to optimize the packout and ensure we meet packhouse-specific quality standards. Rather than waiting for feedback from the packhouse or spending extensive time with each crew evaluating bin contents, we can quickly review QC reports through Hectre, and promptly identify and address any issues.

Hectre’s QC module also enhances our communication with pickers and refines the traditional performance metrics of our industry. Instead of concentrating on speed, like the number of bins picked per day, Hectre enables us to integrate quality into these measures.

With the capability to monitor picker performance consistently throughout the season, the app equips us with data-driven insights that foster constructive feedback and targeted improvements. This results in more meaningful dialogues and ensures greater accountability, as team members can no longer deflect blame when quality concerns arise, thereby improving overall quality control.

QC Time Savings

The time-saving impact of Hectre becomes particularly notable during the harvest season. In terms of quality control, for instance, we employ nine QC personnel. Before Hectre, they would spend a substantial amount of time handling paperwork, taking around 45 minutes to an hour to manually write, reconcile, and then perform data entry back at the office. Now, with Hectre streamlining our QC processes, we’re saving at least 30 to 40 man-hours per week.

With Hectre, we’re saving at least 30 to 40 man-hours per week.

Benefits of Real-Time Harvest Tracking

Another significant advantage provided by Hectre is the ability to track the progress of the harvest in real time. If I’m curious about how many more bins are needed to meet our yield estimates or contractual obligations, I can simply check the Hectre app to see the current status and the number of bins harvested so far. This real-time data empowers me to make informed decisions on load scheduling and to prioritize the next blocks for harvesting based on mapping and other available information.

If I want to check if we’re meeting yield requirements, I simply check the number of bins harvested on the Hectre app

Enhanced Farm Management With Scout

With Scout, if there’s an issue with a specific area of the farm, it’s easy to tag it, make adjustments, and respond appropriately.

Hectre’s Scout module is great for when the guys are out working on the farm and find an issue, like pest damage. With Scout, it’s easy to tag the issue and respond appropriately. Whether that involves treating certain areas or blocks differently due to pests, or fixing physical issues like a broken post, Scout provides us with the information we need to take the necessary action quickly and efficiently.
Industry-wise, we were very much at the forefront. We recognized the value Spectre could provide and adopted it early. It’s a great place to be—in on the ground level for these sorts of things and gaining an advantage early.

Streamlining Timesheets and Payroll

Previously, we used paper time cards and QC sheets for payroll and tracking purposes. At the end of the day, team members would tally their numbers, sign off on the number of bins, and deliver all the paperwork to the office. We then faced the cumbersome task of manually transferring this information into payroll sheets and spreadsheets.

Now that we have Hectre, we don’t need to manually transfer information anymore – timesheets and payroll are automated!

Discrepancies and handwriting issues posed additional challenges. It became frustrating when a picker claimed to have packed seven boxes, but it was only written down as six. Tracking and resolving such problems was time-consuming, especially when sifting through stacks of paper slips late into the night.

With Hectre, timesheets and payroll are automated, and we have a digital record that is easily accessible on the Hectre app. If we have questions or need to access specific information, it’s as simple as pressing a few buttons.

Advice For Other Growers

I would recommend Hectre to other growers, and not just for the efficiency improvements we’ve experienced. We’ve also been highly impressed with the responsiveness and support provided by the Hectre team. Whenever we have questions or require guidance, they are readily available to assist.

I highly recommend Hectre. The efficiency gains, the simplicity, the improved performance, the continual innovation, and the friendly support have really impressed us.

We also appreciate that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, where the emphasis is on us to adapt. For example, when we had a specific requirement for our payroll structure, it was quickly implemented during the weekend. They also regularly seek our feedback and consistently work to provide new features to further enhance the platform.

Supercharge your fruit

If you would like to learn how Hectre’s award winning fruit technologies can support the success of your business, please connect with us.