News and Success Stories

Published 18 October 2022

Agritech in the Orchards

Three things Kiwi growers wish agritech innovators and researchers knew

Growers want innovative tech that helps them with real problems in the field, like how they can operate more sustainably, boost efficiency, and ensure a good harvest in a competitive labour market. But when it comes to creating new technology for the nation's orchards, the technology solutions and research efforts don't always hit the mark.

Together with New Zealand Apples & Pears, Callaghan Innovation’s Agritech team recently hosted Agritech in the Orchards, a day-long event encouraging connections and partnering between growers and agricultural tech innovators, focusing on issues in the industry and the ways that agritech can provide workable and effective solutions for the future.

1. Not every orchard is plug and play.

Know that when you turn up in an orchard, that it will be highly likely that there is ‘variable connectivity’. That’s because an orchard is always changing - the technology may work in an apple orchard in winter when trees are bare, but things change in summer when the trees are in full leaf. 

Work with growers to understand the connectivity layout and help them to explore options. Tom Andrews from Connected Farm talked us through the challenges he sees with technology companies trying to make technology work, and is working on a range of solutions both here and in Australia. 

2. New tech needs to be accessible and easily connect with existing and emerging tech. 

Growers want tech solutions that are straightforward, easily integrated and user-friendly.

A grower also needs to know that the technology has been tried and tested, what the return on their investment is, and its connection to a future ambition for their business. 

Have clear case studies, connect potential customers with growers currently using the product, and understand not only what your product can do now but also potentially in the future. Providing a try before you buy and having support on offer once the product is installed were both great issues explored between technology companies and growers during the Agritech in the Orchard tech demo afternoon.

3. If growers and technology innovators work together, everyone benefits.

Not every grower is going to be at the forefront of testing and trialing new technology, but we know there are some companies embracing the future - as they have had to also embrace recent challenges around a lack of labour, supply chain issues, and global regulatory changes impacting market access.

Watch out for the key issues that growers want prioritised above all else. Ensure your innovators have the opportunity to better understand the needs and problems of the sector, provide trials to test the product and encourage good honest feedback and insights.

Companies like Taylors, Rockit Apples, Waimea, and Vailema are great examples of apple growers that grow to a high standard and are prepared to work closely with innovative solutions … but be prepared to put in the time, energy and investment alongside them to get your solution right on the ground.