Robotics Plus is a case study of a New Zealand firm providing a complementary innovation that promotes US supply chain productivity.
Executive Director, NZUS Council
An example of New Zealand exports that promote US supply chain productivity can be found in Robotics Plus. The Tauranga based company designs and manufactures a range of agricultural systems using Mechanisation, Automation, Robotics, and Sensor (MARS) technologies.
The product range includes a robotic scaling machine (RSMs), providing a rapid, safe, and automated way to measure logs. With a unit in every port in NZ, by early 2022 up to 60% of New Zealand log exports will be processed by one of these RSMs. However, the structure of the US logging industry means that the technology has had to be adapted to suit, with a greater focus on a mobile solution.
The company has formed a joint venture, Global Pac Technologies, with the Australia and New Zealand based Jenkins Group and US based Van Doren Sales to market another of its innovations, an automated apple packer. And a strategic partnership with Yamaha has led to the commercialisation of an autonomous ground vehicle (AGV). This will be integrated with Yamaha’s existing unmanned aerial vehicles for fully autonomous crop spraying in the Napa Valley, California.
The Global Pac Technologies joint venture and a strategic partnership with Yamaha have both been crucial in opening up access to the US market. Building relationships with US producers is essential, and a permanent presence in the form of a US subsidiary is a key part of growing trust, tailoring each platform to the US market, and achieving the scale that US producers require. This will also allow the company to explore manufacturing partnerships in the US.
A big advantage to having a base in New Zealand is the local strength in R&D. Skilled talent with agricultural DNA is easy to come by in New Zealand. In addition, the smaller scale of the industry brings a high degree of agility, meaning new technologies can be deployed onto farms rapidly. Government support through Callaghan Innovation and the tertiary system is another advantage that strengthens New Zealand as a base for R&D.