Major HortiMaX project commissioned in France

We have some great news to report from France! In May, our French colleagues, together with Divatec, put the final touches to an all-in-one automation solution at 'Serres de la Piogerie', a family-owned tomato nursery. The project involved the supply and installation of a MultiMa process computer with Synopta 4 operating software, a Vitalite disinfection unit, two ProDrain sets and a very comprehensive Productive system with 70 MiniMaX handheld input terminals (see photo).

Serres de la Piogerie is a true family business that is run with passion by three sisters: Anne-Claire Goyer, Marie Serré en Pauline Retière. The three sisters gradually took over the business from their father, Jean-Paul, who in turn had succeeded his father. Not surprisingly, horticulture played a huge part in the sisters' lives growing up. Anne-Claire: "This company has been in my family since the sixties. Our work ethic and passion for this job come from our father."

Serres de la Piogerie began specializing in tomato cultivation back in 1993. The greenhouse nursery has a production area of 22 acres (9 hectares) and produces 4,000 tons of tomatoes every year. Despite its intensive production methods, the company is keenly aware of its responsibility to the environment. In addition to not using chemical pesticides, the nursery works with bumblebees to pollinate its tomato crops. It also generates its own electricity using combined heat and power (CHP) systems. The company installed a third CHP system this year.

"What's important to us is the ability to make the right decisions through real-time production monitoring, without the data input becoming too complex for staff", says Anne Claire. Anne Claire is responsible for the workforce scheduling and general management of the company.

To increase production and reduce costs, Serres de la Piogerie chose HortiMaX as its preferred supplier. Many of HortiMaX's new and upcoming products are already being utilized at the greenhouse facility. These products include Synopta 4 combined with MultiMa 2015, which provide ultimate flexibility in customizing greenhouse control. This software combination enables users to create their own custom variables and influences as well as keep track of all greenhouse processes in easy-to-read tables and graphs.

Serres de la Piogerie is now also capable of recycling its drain water thanks to a state-of-the-art VitaLite disinfection unit and two ProDrain sets. These systems enable the company to make significant water and fertilizer savings – not only cutting costs, but also benefiting the environment. ProDrain continuously measures the plant weight and substrate weight, allowing you to accurately monitor the substrate's water content, the drain water quantity and even the condition of your crop. Based on this information, you can automate your irrigation scheduling with extreme precision.

Anne Claire uses HortiMaX Productive to manage the company's workforce processes. Having tried various labour tracking systems in the past, she was really excited about the flexibility and ease of use that HortiMaX Productive offered. The company also opted for the MiniMaX mobile terminals (70 in total), making it a breeze for workers to input data. The workers simply scan the barcodes of activities, rows or carts and they're done. A wireless network was installed throughout the greenhouse in order to display real-time presentations and keep track of production. HortiMaX Productive also provides centralized access control of all entrances into the buildings or certain offices. This gives the company complete control over which workers/worker groups may enter which rooms and at what times. In addition, Productive enables the centralized management of worker information, which not only increases efficiency, but also minimizes the risk of input errors.
The packing area is equipped with two systems for weighing and destacking the retail boxes. Each weighing result is saved together with the employee and location data. The MiniMaX terminals allow pickers to immediately check their performance by displaying the number of kilograms they have harvested.

The company chose a MARCO weighing system for the packing area. To display the weighing results in the Productive software, HortiMaX installed a special interface between the weighing system and the PC workstation. This also allows the sorting results (below desired weight, correct weight, above desired weight) to be analysed in the Productive software, providing maximum convenience.

Above the MiniMaX charging stations, there is a large television screen showing the 'Productive Insight' module. This module enables customer-specific presentations to be displayed. These presentations can show real-time reports and graphs alternated with work schedules or other documents, such as food safety regulations. Since employees see the presentations every morning or break time, they provide an effective way of communicating with staff. As your workforce grows, communicating clear and up-to-date information is essential to achieving your operational goals.

HortiMaX has developed an ISAPAYE module especially for the French market, so Productive will work smoothly with this widely-used payroll system. This module makes it easy to import the hours worked by staff, leave days, etc. into the ISAPAYE system. Employee paycheques can either be printed or sent digitally.

HortiMaX is currently working closely with Anne Claire to develop a workforce scheduling module, tailored specifically to the needs and requirements of the French horticulture sector. With improvements such as these, HortiMaX Productive is becoming an increasingly integrated and essential tool for commercial growers. Enhancing our products by listening carefully to what customers want - that's what sets HortiMaX apart.

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