When TracMap (www.tracmap.co.nz) was named the NZX Emerging Hi-Tech Company at the 2010 Hi-Tech Awards, the judges recognised its “real and tangible progress, domination of its market sector and demonstration of export growth”. It’s now New Zealand’s leading maker and distributor of agricultural GPS satellite guidance equipment, and more than half the fertiliser spreading on our farms is done with the aid of the TracMap system.
What has become a major productivity booster for the agricultural sector started five years ago when TracMap’s founder, agricultural consultant Colin Brown, identified a problem needing a solution: proving traceability and achieving improved productivity in the spreading of fertiliser.
This is a time-consuming, costly and sometimes dangerous business. Fertiliser trucks run over hill and down dale, tackling the task in varying light and weather conditions – not to mention dodgy terrain. If it rains or gets too dark, you have to come back later and finish the job, and before TracMap you had to trust your memory on where you had and hadn’t been.
Imported GPS units being sold here at the time also weren’t much use in New Zealand conditions; they were designed for tractors driving slowly and precisely in more or less straight lines, on flat surfaces. So Brown hired some technical experts, and in October 2006 the first TracMap systems were installed in fertiliser trucks. After some initial teething troubles involving the units overheating were solved, TracMap took off.
The beauty of the system is the time saved because the driver can see on the screen exactly where he’s driven, rather than looking for his wheel marks. If it rains or gets too dark to see, he can come back another time and finish the job, with the areas he’s covered highlighted and stored in TracMap.
“The typical productivity gain is huge – between 15 and 20%,” Brown told Start-Up. “A typical fertiliser-spreading truck operation will pay for the cost of the unit in terms of savings and efficiencies in around three months.” A TracMap unit costs $3,000-7,000 depending on features and functionality, with ongoing costs of $0-50 a month depending on the level of mapping and reporting you want to do.
The company now employs more than 20 people and is diversifying into aviation and utility management, seeking export markets in the US, Australia and Europe.
”I think because I understood the market, and we built to what the market said they needed, and I understood enough about the market to understand what they were telling me, I had confidence that I was going to fill a gap,” Brown says.