Growing up on his parents’ dairy farm near Te Aroha, Flowerday attended Fieldays as a student at Te Aroha College and later as a university student. “I remember going to Fieldays when I was at school and my friends and I would try and collect as many pamphlets as possible,” he says. “Fieldays is also a special time for our family because my father and sister’s birthdays always fall during that week in mid-June. When it was Dad’s 60th we couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate than at Fieldays.”
The Fieldays connection has continued over the years. Flowerday’s Tauranga-based mapping company, GPS-it, has been exhibiting at Fieldays for the past nine years, and will be back at Mystery Creek again this June to showcase its global positioning system (GPS) technology in the Innovations Centre. “As a new business owner I started going to Fieldays to check out the competition and see what new technology was out there,” he says. “It has always been a great opportunity to catch up with old university mates and other farming friends too. It’s like the calm before the storm, before everyone gets busy with calving.”
This year GPS-it has worked closely with the Fieldays team to develop the Fieldays App. The free, downloadable app has been developed to enable visitors to use GPS mapping technology to navigate the site and to plan their day in advance. “You can search the app and it will not only find where you want to go, but tell you the best route for walking there,” says Flowerday, who says that the project involved digitally mapping the entire 114-hectare site at Mystery Creek. User feedback helped improve on last year’s design. “The most requested features of the app were how to find the nearest toilet, and where on earth is my car,” says Flowerday.
Like many New Zealand start-ups, GPS-it has humble beginnings, starting out in a shed on Flowerday’s parents’ Te Puke kiwifruit orchard (where they had relocated after selling their Te Aroha farm). “I was in my 20s, and I remember getting my hands on some GPS gear and measuring up their orchard,” he says. “The team at the pack house were quite impressed and gave me a few more jobs to work on. At that time, Zespri was releasing its Gold variety of kiwifruit. I went and showed them what I could do and ended up picking up mapping work for them. The rest is history.”
Flowerday is proud of how his company has grown over the past 18 years. They now employ more than 20 people and supply maps to 85 per cent of New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry. “There was a real gap in the market for accurate GPS mapping technology farmers could use as the foundation from which to run their entire operation. That’s why I started GPS-it,” says Flowerday. “Everything starts with a map. They are the ultimate driver of productivity. With emerging technology like drones we are now getting even more detail than we used to with GPS.” GPS-it worked with companies such as Fonterra and Zespri to develop tools for farmers, that would help them run a more efficient, profitable and sustainable business.
“A project close to my heart was an automated mapping system we built with Zespri to help monitor kiwifruit orchards infected with the PSA bacteria,” says Flowerday. “It was a challenging time for our family and the industry. I’m also proud of the work we did with Fonterra more than seven years go to build a waterway mapping app as part of farmers’ efforts to protect our streams, lakes and rivers. We’re passionate about the future of New Zealand’s horticulture and agriculture industries and the role we can play in helping them thrive,” says Flowerday.
GPS-it has three projects entered into this year’s Fieldays Innovation Awards which will be showcased in the Fieldays Innovations Centre from June 13 to 16.
The awards showcase the latest developments in the agricultural industry, with the potential to shape the future of farming and primary industries in New Zealand. The categories range from grassroots innovations through to small-to-medium business product launches and international agribusiness innovations. Entrants in the awards not only benefit from public exposure and media attention, attending Fieldays also gives them a chance to validate and test their product or concept with a rural audience. They also benefit from free advice and support from lawyers, patent and trademark attorneys, accountants and product development consultants in the Innovations Centre.
“It is an exciting opportunity for our ingenuity and technology to be showcased at Fieldays to anyone and everyone who has a connection to rural New Zealand – from prospective clients to competitors,” says Flowerday. GPS-it will be showcasing the Tiaki GIS (Geographic Information System) Tool, which it has developed for Fonterra. Flowerday says it allows Fonterra farmers to satisfy their Farm Environment Plan (FEP) requirements quickly. “Some FEPs can cost several thousand dollars whereas Fonterra’s plans are delivered free by their Sustainable Dairying Advisors (SDAs). The way we have designed the app means farmers’ environment plans are streamlined, standardised and can be easily updated,” he says.
“The tool identifies areas of a farm that require changes or where there is room for improvement. These are categorised and presented clearly and logically in a PDF file. Overview and category maps allow anyone reading the FEP to easily understand the location, size and spatial relationship of any features presented in the plan.” Flowerday says Fonterra SDAs have been using the tool for approximately six months. In this time more than 500 farms have had their FEPs generated through the system. GPS-it has also entered its new plate meter for measuring pasture cover into the Fieldays Innovation Awards, which it is officially launching at Mystery Creek this year. “Farmers can choose how they use the plate meter, with or without an app. The app works with any phone, and it is cheaper, better and smarter than other Bluetooth plate meters on the market.”
The company’s third entry into the awards is its precision irrigation application. “This tool will suit any Valley Pivot irrigator with a variable rate installed,” says Flowerday. “It helps farmers irrigate more precisely on the right paddocks at the right time, and enables them to omit areas they don’t want to irrigate, for reasons such as weather conditions or high soil nutrient levels. The app can automatically calculate irrigation rates for each paddock depending on the soil type. The application is available in the market now with some early adopters, but will be fully released for the 2018/19 irrigation season.” Flowerday says he values the relationship he has with Fieldays and has always enjoyed attending the four-day event, both as an exhibitor and visitor. “Fieldays is a long week, but come Saturday you’re almost a bit sad to see it finished for another year.”
A box set of five short films has been created to mark the 50th anniversary of Fieldays. It captures the stories of people from around New Zealand and the impact that Fieldays has had on their lives. Matt Flowerday’s story will debut as a 30-second television commercial on TVNZ 1 this Sunday June 3 from 7pm. A longer version of Flowerday’s story is available in the new documentary box set Fieldays Stories, available on TVNZ OnDemand (TVNZ.co.nz).
For more information see www.fieldays.co.nz, or follow Fieldays on Facebook.