Chat with the CEO

Chat with the CEO | Dr. Matt Glenn of Robotics Plus, Tauranga, New Zealand
22 October 2019
Chat with the CEO | Dr. Matt Glenn of Robotics Plus, Tauranga, New Zealand

In 1995, Dr. Matt Glenn moved from the United Kingdom to New Zealand to work for biotech start up, Genesis Research. It marked the beginning of an impressive leadership career, working with some of New Zealand’s most innovative companies. In 2018, Matt took on the role of CEO at Robotics Plus, a company at the cutting edge of robotics and AI technology, focused on primary industries.

Based in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty – New Zealand’s agri-tech hub - Robotics Plus is now expanding globally and seeking to connect with the global pool of tech talent they need to fulfil their potential. 

Interested in learning more about technology career opportunities with this iconic company? Let’s have a chat with the CEO.

Matt, first things first – coffee?

Flat white, thanks.

What is your favourite part of the work day?

I enjoy first thing in the morning, engaging with the team as they arrive.

How would you describe Robotics Plus?

Robotics Plus emerged from the need to solve the growing challenges in the global primary industries such as: labour shortages, sustainability for growers, pollination gaps and yield security. Robotics Plus uses expertise in machine vision, robotics and automation, AI and analytics and software and control systems to design, develop and manufacture world first robotic solutions.

Can you tell us your career story?

After completing a PhD in molecular Biology at Leeds University I travelled to New Zealand to work for a biotech start up, Genesis Research based in Auckland. I was the Head of Genomics, reporting to the CEO. At the time we were the largest genomics platform in the Southern Hemisphere. Genesis went through an IPO on the ASX and NZX in 2001.

I then had strategic, commercial and R&D leadership roles at two of New Zealand’s largest companies. I was with Fonterra, based at the Research Centre in Palmerston North and then moved up to Tauranga for a role at Ballance Agrinutrients. Following that I spent five years in management consulting working in the finance and technology sectors before moving to Hill Laboratories, New Zealand’s largest independent analytical testing laboratory.

Hill’s is headquartered in Hamilton and I commuted from Tauranga during the four and a half years I was CEO there. I met Steve Saunders, the Chairman and Co-Founder of Robotics Plus while at Hill’s and agreed to come on board as the CEO. I liked the vision and the challenge of moving full circle back to an entrepreneurial growth business.

As CEO of Robotics Plus, what do you care about?

I’m motivated to make a difference. I care about empowering our team to get the best out of them, individually and collectively, creating elegant solutions for market needs.

What company achievements are you most proud of?

Robotics Plus has two commercial products in market - a robotic fruit packer that packs apples into display trays and a robotic log scaler that measures the volume of wood on the back of truck and trailer. We are also developing a suite of autonomous unmanned ground vehicles both single and multi-purpose applications in the food and fibre value chains. In the past 12 months, Robotics Plus has commercialised two robotic products, entered the United States and European markets and raised a Series A US$10m with Yamaha Motor Company.

When you look to the future for Robotics Plus, what do you see?

Robotics Plus will be an iconic, global robotic and automation company, respected for the quality products and service we provide, creating solutions to meet end-user needs. There is no limit to the growth potential of this business - the sky is the limit.

What ag-tech talent will you need to fulfil this potential?   

We are looking for mechanical, electronic, software, mechatronic, navigation and design engineers. As we grow, we will also need to bolster our commercial and corporate support capability.

We are fortunate to have great access to the best graduates in New Zealand thanks to our relationships with the engineering schools at the major universities. We will need to find a balance of new graduates and experienced technology professionals in the different capabilities mentioned above.

Who would you like to hear from?

We would be delighted to hire returning Kiwi expats bringing experience from overseas. We have found that staff who have worked in organisations around the world at different stages of maturity bring diversity in thinking and process that is positive for Robotics Plus. We believe in diversity and often hire immigrants to New Zealand. Over 30% of our staff are from overseas. We welcome their commercial, operational, technical and cultural experiences.

What message would you give to tech professionals considering a move to Tauranga?

Tauranga is a fantastic place to live in New Zealand. It is big enough to have all the facilities you need but small enough to be liveable. We have a fantastic climate, beaches on our doorstep and mountains just a short drive away. We are in the ‘golden triangle’ of the North Island with Auckland (2.5hr drive) and Hamilton (1.25hr drive) both close by.

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

The Bay of Plenty is the centre of the horticultural industry in New Zealand. 80% of kiwifruit and avocados are grown and processed here. There is a massive need for technology as these industries grow. The horticulture industry is looking to double in size over the next 10 years.

What is your company culture like?

We work hard and play hard and have a great social side to our business. Stewardship is important to us and we support a number of local community initiatives. I’m a strong believer in values-based leadership.  We have clearly defined values that shape our company culture. 

What are those values?

Pioneering - He aronga nui
We are creative, visionary and inspiring, the example for others to follow. Developing innovative and practical solutions at the forefront and having fun along the way.

Principled - Tika me te pono
We act with honesty and integrity, respecting and supporting each other. We value our customers and always professional in our conduct.

Collaborative – Manaakitanga
We collaborate and co-innovate positively with our peers and partners, always stronger together than alone

Stewardship – Kaitiakitanga
We are stewards of our people and the environment, providing growth and sustainable technology solutions that add value and build a better future for our people.

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

Tauranga is a great place to live. To relax, I enjoy golfing, gardening and playing my guitar.

Workwise, I love the energy of the emerging tech industry in the Bay of Plenty.  We have a great supportive ecosystem here. Collaboration is not just a word that’s thrown around – it actually happens. The PlantTech research consortium is a good example of collaboration in action and Robotics Plus are glad to be a key player in that.


Ready for a Change?

Robotics Plus 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  


Thinking of moving to Tauranga someday? 

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3. Read Q&A interviews with recent Tauranga arrivals on our Kiwi expatimmigrant and local Kiwis blogs.

Kathryn Overall


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