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Watch Out World

22 NOVEMBER 2004

A small Christchurch-based electronics manufacturer is cutting quite a swathe in global markets with its innovative moisture measurement and control systems.

Christchurch-based Streat Instruments, which already exports more than 60 percent of its moisture measurement products, is gearing up for expansion into new global markets as it prepares to promote its products at three major international trade fairs.

The company’s complex products are used in a variety of applications: on-line industrial control; fibre processing and food industries and soil moisture measurement for agriculture, pasture and sports turf.

Managing director Jim Herbison says the company’s strengths include its small size.

“As a small New Zealand company we have to be innovative and ahead of the game if we are going to survive. Being small and outsourcing the bulk of our production gives us the necessary flexibility to respond to an ever-changing market. Our total commitment to ongoing R&D means we offer solutions that match our clients’ requirements.”

And the company is countering recent tight trading conditions in its more traditional markets with the development of new products. It has recently teamed up with Landcare Research and plans to release an innovative new Soil Laboratory Instrument later this year.

This builds on the company’s existing soil moisture measurement systems (called AQUAFLEX) where Streat is also extending and reviewing its distribution network and strategic alliances.

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“We want to take advantage of the vast global opportunities that are opening up as water shortages and sustainability issues become global issues.

”The company is also seeking new geographical markets and key strategic alliances for its DRYCOM product range, which is used in the industrial sector.

Mr Herbison says the company expects significant growth over the next few years as its new products become more firmly established.

To this end the company approached New Zealand Trade and Enterprise for help in attending three major international trade fairs and has been awarded nearly $10,000 through the Enterprise Development Grants Scheme.

The funding will help the company attend the American Geophysical Union Fall Conference later this year; the GCSAA (Golf Course Superintendents Association of America) Show early next year and ITMA Asia – the International Textile Machinery Association show in Asia, also next year.

The prestigious AGU Fall conference includes a trade show section and Mr Herbison says the company will release the new soil laboratory instrument, as well as have a paper presented on its behalf.

The second trade show, for golf course superintendents in the US, is important to the company because Streat has identified sports turf applications (especially golf) as the biggest potential market for its AQUAFLEX product range.

“The USA golf market has been identified as a key market for us and there is growing awareness of the need for products such as AQUAFLEX largely due to extensive drought across many areas of the USA. Hence our past efforts in establishing AQUAFLEX's profile in this market place should start to pay off.”

Mr Herbison says the funding from the Enterprise Development Grant scheme has covered half the cost of stand rental and fittings at the three shows and has been hugely useful to the company.

“It provides significant assistance to offset what is a very costly exercise for a small company active in export markets. These shows are vital to our export effort.”
As to whether the company would have attended without help from NZTE, Mr Herbison says decisions about each show would have been made on a case-by- case basis “but it is probable we would not attend all three without funding”.

As well as assistance attending the trade fairs, Streat Instruments has frequent contact with NZTE and has also gained help with market research and marketing contacts.

Streat Instruments was formed in the 1980’s by Garth Streat in Christchurch and was bought by Alda Holdings in the United Kingdom in 2000.


Editor’s note:

New Zealand Trade & Enterprise’s Enterprise Development Grants aim to assist entrepreneurs and companies to gain additional business skills and to obtain external experience and assistance in developing business projects.

Who can apply?
Entrepreneurs, start ups and established businesses.

What are grants awarded for?
To employ a business mentor or to undertake advanced management training or technology based training. Grants are also made to allow companies to engage specialist external advice and expertise on a project or concept or to allow companies to undertake some market development activities.

How much is offered?
Grants are offered on an up to 50:50 reimbursement basis up to a maximum of $20,000.

What’s the main thrust of the fund?
The project or activity must add value to an existing business, to current activities or to development plans and must have sustainable commercial potential.


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