NZ Grower

Greenhouse technology bumped up

Adam Forbes has worked for prominent tech companies including Honeywell and Dell in the United States, but he has always maintained his passion for agricultur­e.

- By Glenys Christian

His grandfathe­r, the late Doug Davies, was a well-known agronomist and one of the founders of the New Zealand Tree Crops Associatio­n.

“My parents were avid gardeners, and when I was young I did school science projects looking at the effects of different conditions on tomato plants,” he says.

He studied software engineerin­g at Otago University and won a Fulbright scholarshi­p to complete a Master’s Degree at Stanford University in California. Then he stayed in the United States for a total of nine years, but decided it was time to come home in 2017 and focus on his passion. He founded Auckland-based Bumpercrop Limited to concentrat­e on developing technologi­es that help covered crop growers.

“I see a big future for covered crop growing in agricultur­e,” he says.

“You can produce much more per square metre with less environmen­tal impact. As precision agricultur­e and data technologi­es continue to develop, even greater efficienci­es will be achieved.”

His first product was an automated substrate sensor that has helped early adopters, such as Gaven Naylor, to remotely monitor his crop and optimise inputs. He developed his product by working with small and medium sized growers and has now begun to work with some of the country’s largest growers including NZ Gourmet and NZ

Hothouse. The sensors transmit data to the cloud which is then available in graphs and reports on growers’ phones, computers or via automatic text message alerts.

“Really easy and quick installati­on are key,” he says.

“Growers have limited time and the solution needs to work immediatel­y out of the box.”

Once growers are set up they will often discover additional features they would like to add in because every organisati­on is unique.

“I see a big future for covered crop growing in agricultur­e” ADAM FORBES

“I’ve designed the system so that after initial setup it can easily adapt to growers’ differing needs, which has been a strong selling point,” he says.

This is especially true for Adam’s recently released operations software.

“With rising labor costs there was a big need in the market for labour efficiency and operations software that is simple to use,” he explains.

“To achieve this the software had to be customisab­le to each grower’s

operation.” Growers can choose whether to use IOS or Android tablets or phones or if they want to include radio tags that can be scanned on each row. The system then automatica­lly uploads and analyses the data and provides relevant reports such as employee productivi­ty, yield forecastin­g and more.

“We like working with growers to understand their needs and develop functional­ity that makes their jobs easier.”

“Other systems aren’t so flexible and can be very expensive,” he says.

Adam is now working to expand the system by simplifyin­g other timeconsum­ing tasks in the greenhouse.

He has developed a crop registrati­on module to track plant growth over time. And there’s also another feature in the works for recording fertiliser usage.

“We like working with growers to understand their needs and develop functional­ity that makes their jobs easier.”

Bumpercrop’s business is continuing to grow and was recently awarded a Callaghan Innovation grant Adam will use to hire more staff.

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