An inventive approach to orchard spraying has helped a Tauranga business owner win the prestigious annual New Zealand Kiwifruit Innovation Award.
Seespray managing director Vicky Smith, who collected her trophy at Thursday night’s Zespri Harvest Dinner, is the creative force behind a community notification and spray management system.
Ms Smith’s business currently helps about 1,000 kiwifruit and other orchards manage spray requirements while automatically sharing spray activity information with about 10,000 of their staff and neighbours, including local schools.
“It’s huge, it’s exciting and quite overwhelming,” she says of her award win. “It’s a validation that the work myself and my team are doing really is making a difference.
“Starting any business is challenging, let alone in an industry that is new to you. We set out to build a solution that was better for both sides of the fence and I think we have, I’m really proud.”
Growers subscribe to Seespray, while neighbours can access it free – they receive a text, email or phone call whenever spraying contractors are working in
Ms Smith launched her business in 2015, spurred by her move to a rural property with two young children. She became frustrated when sprayers would appear without warning, while her children played outside.
“I had no idea what chemicals were being sprayed or what precautions I needed to take, it was quite unnerving. Once I started working with orchardists and sprayers, I saw first hand that they genuinely care, they just needed an economic and efficient way to keep their communities informed.”
Her business focusses primarily on Western Bay of Plenty kiwifruit and avocado orchards but has recently spread into the Eastern Bay of Plenty and Northland, to berry orchards and other horticultural crops. She is also speaking with apple orchardists in other regions.
“It’s a great use of technology because it helps orchardists to care for and talk with their communities,“ Zespri chairman and judging panel member Peter McBride says. “Our growers have certainly embraced it and if other horticultural industries can take and use it, even better.
The trophy, established by former Kiwifruit New Zealand chairman Sir Brian Elwood, was last year won by a Zespri marketing leader, Kanako Inomata, who developed a new approach to engaging young consumers in Japan based on consumer insights.