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.

NZ Grower - - COVERED CROPS - 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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