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Chat with the CEO | Matt Flowerday of GPS-it

Matt Flowerday of GPS it

Farming is in Matt Flowerday’s blood.  He grew up on the land and founded GPS-it to help farmers and orchardists map their land, understand it and get the most out of it.  Today GPS-it is one of New Zealand’s most innovative agri-tech companies, providing aerial mapping services and cutting-edge technology to empower those who work the land.

GPS-it is growing rapidly and is seeking to hire people with technology and agri-tech expertise.  Already in a strong position, the company is only just beginning to unlock the potential of the systems they have developed.

Interested in joining their team in New Zealand’s fastest-growing city?

Let’s have a chat with the CEO.

Matt, first things first, coffee?

At the office, I drink Americanos. But if we meet at a cafe, a large mocha thanks!

What is your favourite part of the workday?

The morning, especially on the days when I come in early. I like watching the energy levels rise as the team comes in. 

What is GPS-it all about?

GPS-it is New Zealand’s farm and orchard aerial mapping expert.  We’re also a leading software development company. We provide high-quality customized geospatial solutions to our clients, using ESRI technology. Coming from an agricultural background ourselves, we know what’s required to manage land efficiently.  Farmers and orchardists are our people.  We’re committed to providing solutions for them that work to improve profitability, productivity, and sustainability.  Everything we do is based on our goal of pushing technology to its limits to benefit the end-user.

What are your flagship products or services?

Farm and Orchard Aerial Mapping: Our field team all come from farming backgrounds, that’s why we know the key to farm mapping is accuracy. We pride ourselves on using the latest drone and aerial imagery technology to produce superiorly accurate maps.

Customised GIS Software Solutions: We have extensive experience in developing innovative GIS solutions across a variety of industries.  Our software and apps are effective, easy to use and exceed our client’s expectations.  We’re also the ESRI Global Agri-Business partner and among the top AppStudio developers worldwide.

AgBox: This is our software solution for farmers to improve profitability, productivity, and sustainability by allowing users to easily create, manage and share farm or land features. The intuitive navigation makes recording everyday events such as crops, infrastructure, sprays, and fertilizer applications quick and easy. The sharing functionality gives you full control over who you share data with and what they can see.

Can you tell us your career story?

I grew up on a dairy farm in Waikato and have always been interested in agriculture.  I went to Canterbury and Lincoln Universities to study Agricultural Engineering and then to Massey when I completed a Masters in Ag-Eng. What can I say?  I like agriculture and I also had a great time at uni!

After graduating, I worked as a consultant for Livestock Improvement and the Dairy Board, focusing on environmental and quality systems, services and solutions. I travelled for a bit then came home and set up GPS-it and have been stuck there ever since.

Can you tell me the story of founding GPS-it?

My parents bought a kiwifruit orchard in 1998 and I tried to map it with a GPS unit. It worked, and I then approached a local packhouse company and mapped several of their orchards.  At around this time, Hort16A (Gold Kiwifruit) was being commercialized and I pitched the concept of GPS mapping as a way of recording and auditing where the plants were going and to which orchards.  Fast forward two decades and we have now mapped over 90% of all New Zealand kiwifruit orchards.

As the founder of GPS-it what motivates you?

I’m always looking for better ways of doing things.  What motivates me is creating a positive change, whether it is delivering a solution to a customer or a new process enhancement.  I am motivated to lead a solution-focused company.  My team and I love to find ways to solve problems using technology in new and different ways.

One of the challenges we have found is the New Zealand environment and climate is unique and creates a set of mapping and technology challenges you typically don’t find offshore. This actually creates one of our competitive advantages. If you can get your technology to successfully work in New Zealand, it is highly likely to work internationally. We found this to be true in our recent offshore trials. 

When you look to the future for GPS-it, what do you see? 

We are growing rapidly with over 50% growth in the last year.  We are only just beginning to unlock the potential of the systems we have developed.

What tech talent will you need to fulfill this potential?   

We need more developers, but we also need more people to deliver our solutions.  Ideally, we are looking for people with a passion for agriculture and an understanding of tech. As we grow, we will need more data scientists and people with machine learning and AI skills. We will also need experienced agronomists and sector knowledge as we move more into the predictive analytics space.

We are lucky at the moment as we are finding people who are looking to move to Tauranga and who want to join our team.  We have taken the approach that if the right person pops up that we will need in the future then we look to employ them, even if we aren’t currently recruiting for that role at the time.

Who would you like to hear from?

We are keen to hear from returning Kiwi expats with relevant expertise.  They can provide insights into offshore markets and some of the cultural challenges of working and operating internationally.  They have also been exposed to a range of companies and projects that simply don’t exist in New Zealand.  There are some parallels and we can apply that knowledge to some of our projects. We have a global view and a number of our team have lived and worked overseas.

We have also hired immigrants to New Zealand and would do so again. Visas can be a hurdle, but some of the tech work we do is unique and it is difficult to find local people that have had experience in these areas.

What would you say to tech professionals who are considering moving to Tauranga?

Give me a call!  Tauranga offers a great climate. It’s a great place to live and raise a family.  The tech community is about to explode. Come join the community and help change the world.

Why do you think ag-tech is growing in Tauranga?  

Clearly, the kiwifruit industry has a lot to do with it.  The industry is set to double in size over the next ten years.  And we are resilient, having gone through two crises’ – firstly, the collapse of the kiwifruit market and the emergence of Gold and Zespri as a brand and secondly, the PSA crisis. Look at how strongly the industry rebounded from that. 

We have been doing agtech for a long time – before it was ‘cool. If you look at the likes of ourselves, Robotics Plus, and Trimax we have been around for a large number of years and are customer-driven.

What excites me is that the Bay of Plenty is rapidly becoming the epicenter of hot focussed agtech. We are addressing local challenges, but we have a global view and the reach to take it to the world.

Do you have any community or sustainability initiatives as a company?

As we grow we are looking at more ways we can contribute to the local community. We have sponsored the TECT helicopter for a number of years and we donated a drone and training to Youth Search and Rescue (YSAR).  On the sustainability front, the majority of our team skateboard, walk or bike to work and we donated our old computer and hardware to a company that recycles and reuses them. 

We helped Fonterra to develop the Fonterra Waterway Mapping App. This was to support the clean streams Accord, which is aimed at lifting environmental performance on dairy farms and improving water quality in New Zealand.  GPS-it built and deployed this customized mobile GIS application to collect data around stock access to waterways on dairy farms. The project involved setting up ArcGIS Server, creating a base dataset of waterways and other farm-related info, and then building a customized app. 

What are you proudest of at GPS-it?

GPS-it developed the cultivar licensing audit programme for Zespri in 1999 and has continued to carry out the audit programme ever since.  We also developed an app for the NZ Agriculture Fieldays, which our team was pretty proud of. The Fieldays attracts roughly 1,000 exhibitors and 130,000 visitors each year. In 2017, Mystery Creek commissioned GPS-it to develop a new mobile app to showcase the event.  The Fieldays app has it all, from routes to exhibitors and essential services, pinning where you left your car, through to the ability to save favourites and plan your day in advance. In June 2019, the Fieldays app hit #1 in the NZ iTunes app store.

What is the culture like at GPS-it?

We work pretty hard, but we are very flexible around working hours to fit into our team’s commitments.

What do you personally love about living and working in Tauranga?

I live in Pillans Point and I love that it only takes me a few minutes to get to work. It’s also cool to watch the new developments that are happening locally and to watch Tauranga become a ‘real’ city. I do travel a bit with work but when I’m home in the Bay I enjoy spending time with my family and I’m looking forward to the long summer days.

 

Ready for a Change?

GPS-it is a key company in Tauranga’s growing agri-tech sector.

“Strong growth in Tauranga has led to significant skills shortages in our AGRI-TECH sector. Key companies want to connect with Kiwi expats, migrants, and tech-professionals from within New Zealand with relevant expertise.” ~ Nigel Tutt, Priority One CEO  

LEARN MORE

Thinking of moving to Tauranga someday? 

 

Take the first steps now.

1. Like us on Facebook 

2. Email us at info@priorityone.co.nz

3. Read stories from recent Tauranga arrivals on our Kiwi expatimmigrant, and local Kiwis blogs.

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