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Award Winning Agritech Innovation

Award Winning Agritech Innovation


Four Christchurch electronic and IT companies have teamed up with Dunedin-based TracMap NZ to create the new ‘TracMap’ GPS mapping system for agriculture.

The TracMap system is designed especially to overcome the main problem of other GPS systems by providing farmers and contractors with precision mapping of product placement in hill country locations, as well as on the flat. It is one of the most cost-effective and user friendly agricultural tools on the market, and enables farmers to accurately demonstrate compliance to the strictest food processing and environmental standards.

The product enables farmers and contractors to drive fertiliser and spray trucks more accurately when working on steep and rolling hills, and produces maps that provide proof of product placement at the touch of a button. This is an increasingly important requirement for the farming industry.

Last month, Minister of Agriculture Jim Anderton confirmed the importance of on-farm traceability. He said, "Society is raising the environmental standards for land users and is voicing concern about the water quality in our rivers and lakes. At the same time farmers are increasing the use of fertiliser and nitrogen on hill country to achieve greater productivity. … The way of the future will require fertiliser to be applied more accurately to meet the precise nutrient needs of a particular crop or farming system. Increasingly on-farm quality assurance schemes are driven by the consumers’ desire to be reassured that the food that they eat is safe and free from harmful contaminants. This is driving traceability schemes where the farmer is required to be able to say that all on-farm practices are carried out to a standard that ensures total safety of the food product.”

The companies involved in the project are Bluewater Systems, EDAC Electronics, e2-media, and Holliday Corporation. All companies are already well known for their respective expertise and capabilities, with a track record of innovative new products.

Bluewater Systems provided a Snapper 255 Single Board Computer Module that controls the system operation and performs the processing and display of data received from a range of sensors such as GPS, weather and spray rates. Information is fed to the module via a central junction box that was developed by EDAC Electronics. This acts as a gateway to the various input devices and enables a display unit to be located on a vehicle’s dash, away from the sensor cabling. e2-media developed the back office IT system and Holliday Corporation provided the project management.

TracMap’s time to market was very quick at just 8 months from concept to the final high-quality product; the industry average is around 2 years.

Colin Brown, Managing Director of TracMap, is delighted with the successful development and launch of the product. “Having four companies each contributing their specialist skills towards the development of the project has enabled us to reach the market in months rather than years. We have already achieved initial sales three times more than we anticipated. Also, just last month TracMap won the ‘New Product Release’ award at the National Agriculture Fieldays in Hamilton!”

The team found developing TracMap very satisfying. Simon Glass, Managing Director of design services company Bluewater Systems, explained: “By working together we were able to reduce risk, meet an aggressive delivery schedule and develop a modular system that exactly meets the needs of the customer.”

Development and testing of initial TracMap proof-of-concept models commenced in October 2005. Feedback from farmers and contractors (many of whom have worked overseas and have worked with similar technology) helped establish the more practical features and benefits they needed, in particular:

- A screen that can be viewed easily in daylight. TracMap’s screen is the clearest on the market.
- Robust and scratch free screen and casing for use in industry trucks (touch screens are not suitable for this purpose).
- An in-built modem that emails proof of placement maps to the contractor’s computer, and allows the image to be forwarded with the client’s invoice.

Other unique advantages of using TracMap include:

- Accurate GPS positioning that enables drivers to work in the dark, and maximises the cost-efficiency of expensive equipment.
- Reduces time and product wastage.
- Provides proof of product placement and work quality to customers.
- Provides simple method of meeting all traceability and audit requirements.
- Helps with invoicing clients and tracking of chemical use.

TracMap is built to last with robust hardware and a flexible technical design that allows it to be used for other data gathering purposes.

Brown explains, “Meeting traceability and audit requirements by reporting fertiliser and chemical placement is becoming more and more important in agriculture. I recognised the need for a robust and easy to use system that allows contractors and farmers to cope with changing environmental and food processing expectations. Using modern proven technology we have created a system that maps and verifies responsible placement of fertilizers and chemicals, and reduces operator costs, something of which I am very proud.”

About TracMap Ltd (www.tracmap.co.nz)
TracMap is a privately owned and funded company established in 2005 by Director Colin Brown. New partner Gerald Harrex will join the company in August 2006. Its TracMap product is designed to help farmers and contractors work in hill country locations. The company has received business development grants from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise for product development and intends to apply for further funding next year to investigate and pursue overseas markets.

About EDAC Electronics (www.edacelectronics.com)
EDAC Electronics specialises in the development of remote monitoring and control solutions using both fixed line and cellular networks. Since 1992 EDAC has developed many novel solutions for numerous customers across a wide range of markets. The company is a leading supplier for the delivery of real-time data for improving efficiencies, providing peace of mind and most importantly to increase yield and profit. EDAC has an innovative electronic development team that provides a technological design service to make concepts a reality.

About Bluewater Systems (www.bluewatersys.com)
Bluewater Systems, formed in 1996, is an ARM Technology Solution Centre that specialises in embedded electronic and FPGA design. With offices in Christchurch, New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia, Bluewater Systems services a number of international customers, including ARM PLC, NEC, Intel, Microsoft, Nintendo and Tenon. Products and services offered by Bluewater Systems include:
- Extensive range of ARM development tools
- Snapper System Module and Single Board Computer which enables fast design and turn-around and low-volume manufacture of advanced electronics designs
- ARM Consulting services, from FPGA design to full product development

About e2-media (www.e2-media.co.nz)
e2-media is a smart innovative company that understands the strategic importance of e-business, and delivers the technologies to make e-business work – whether it is using its suite of modular, internet-based web applications or performing custom design and development . All work is conducted at the company’s Christchurch head office. The company also has a sales office in San Francisco, USA.

About Holliday Corporation
Holiday Corporation is a project management and investment company founded by Director Phil Holliday in 2004. The company specialises in assisting NZ technology companies with high growth potential with the strategic direction, expertise and influence they need to reach the next level.

Ends

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