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Fieldays 2022 Innovation Award winners

The next generation of farming innovation is a hotly contested field, and NZ Agricultural Fieldays' annual Innovation Awards showcased a variety of exceptional ideas

This year’s prestigious Young Innovator of the Year title went to a group of three students from the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology, for their software Delta Waterways. Group members Brendan Bell, Ander Castelltort, and James Lear created Delta Waterways after the team competed in the TakiWaehere Geospatial Hackathon in 2021 where they were given 24 hours to build a piece of software from the ground up.

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Young Innovator of the Year – Delta Waterways

Following that competition, the trio connected with other industry professionals who saw the software as being a viable invention and encouraged them to pursue and develop it, with the potential to help people across the country.

“Delta Waterways helps to give people
a more complete picture of their waterways, which helps to identify areas of problems of say algae bloom or sediment build-up. It’s an emerging technology but we are riding that wave and can’t wait to see the journey it takes us on,” say Anders and Brendan.

The University of Waikato won the Prototype Award this year for its Kiwifruit Human Assisted Harvesting (e-BIN), a product that was created during the 2021 lockdown, in part, to solve the issue of staff shortages – one of the kiwifruit industry’s biggest problems.

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Prototype Winners – University of Waikato

Funded by Zespri, the electronic fruit bin can potentially revolutionise the picking industry by taking most of the heavy lifting out of picking produce, bringing people that potentially weren’t physically able to get into picking jobs into the industry. The group has consulted with representatives from the picking industry and has worked to refine the fine motor skills on the e-Bin to reduce fruit damage.

Nick Pickering, a lecturer at the University’s School of Engineering, says that there’s a real need for people in the kiwifruit industry and physicality can be a barrier to filling in this labour shortage.

“During testing next kiwifruit season, we will be working towards solving that labour shortage in the kiwifruit industry and increasing productivity while also making sure that the quality of the kiwifruit is not impacted in any way.”

The winner of the Early-Stage Award is SNPShot, a system that uses DNA to verify an animal’s potential and guide farmers in their decision-making. The five-part, fully patented system is completely digital and compatible with standard DNA lab equipment, meaning that farmers can save labour and keep costs down because they don’t need to buy multiple pieces of software and hardware.

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Early Stage Winners – SNPShot

Graham Adler, general manager of SNPShot, says that the all-in-one device saves time and money and ensures traceability via GPS, so farmers know exactly where the DNA sample was taken from.

“Taking DNA samples from any animal can be complex and often involves a lot of manual work. SNPShot is simple to use, is more accurate, and effectively increases your chance of finding your Dan Carters among the club rugby players so to speak. We’re excited to continue developing SNPShot for commercial use.”

The winner of the Growth and Scale award is RiverWatch, a water quality monitoring system that effectively offers real-time information about the quality of oceans, rivers, and streams. Developed, tested, and manufactured in New Zealand, this software monitors water quality information in a meaningful way and provides accurate information to relevant people.

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Growth and Scale Winners – RiverWatch

The idea for RiverWatch was created by father-and-son duo Grant and James Muir to solve the problem of water pollution upstream from their farm but the pair quickly realised that there was a growing water quality crisis in New Zealand.

Abi Croutear-Foy, chief growth officer for RiverWatch, says keeping New Zealand’s waterways clean can be a difficult task but RiverWatch makes this seamless, accurate, and easy.

“We’ve worked hard to create a sustainable, easy-to-use, affordable system that helps you to track your water quality. We’re leading the world in this space; there’s just nothing as precise and easy out there allowing access to top-quality data. It’s pretty exciting to be part of a movement towards a global solution.”

The Fieldays Innovation Awards is sponsored by Massey University, Vodafone, Amazon Web Services, Gait International, King St. Advertising, NZME, Sprout Agritech, Blender Design, and Soda Inc., who all contribute to a prize package valued at more than $60,000. 

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