Geraldine Warner’s article “How Do Your Returns Stack Up?” in the November Good Fruit Grower included several helpful comments about our new information service, Packer Roger Pepperl noted that warehouses don’t all pack the same Extra Fancy grade, and some don’t pack Premium grade. He is correct on both points.

In developing our system, we have given highest priority to fairness and accuracy when comparing one packer to another.  We compare size to size, grade to grade, and likewise for all other factors, as faithfully and consistently as possible.  When there is a potential for misunderstanding, we provide additional instructions to growers to help them resolve differences for packers that use nonstandard terms or processes. As our subscribers gain experience with the system, we will add more instructions.

One additional point relative to Roger’s comment: growers who subscribe to can compare how packers handle grades to better understand the industry in their region and in other regions. Such information is available nowhere else. We thank Roger for pointing out the issue and look forward to any guidance he might have.

Dan Kelly made an insightful point concerning the data, and how meaningful it might be when the number of data points is sparse. Dan has correctly pointed out that the more returns we have on any one packer, the more likely the data will accurately describe how that packer does business.

We wish to make two points about the accuracy and meaningfulness of the data. First, we average like data; past returns have shown that the variability within a single packer is not great. It takes very few data points to get a meaningful characterization of the packer’s prices and costs.   Second, growers currently have essentially zero data. By comparison, a packer for which we have five growers reporting is infinitely more ­meaningful than no information at all.

In the final analysis, we are only the referees at the game. The growers, one by one, build the database to help themselves and their fellow growers. We do our best to set the rules and keep it fair. We are very hopeful that, in the very near future, the number of subscribers will be sufficient to erase all concerns about accuracy of data.

All of us in the tree fruit industry own a small piece of business intelligence the day our returns arrive. Taken separately, it is of little value. But when combined together in, growers have a total picture; something never before possible. With this powerful “business intelligence,” growers can make informed farm decisions and achieve better outcomes from farming.

Gery Amos and Robert Wilkes