PlantTech: An Executive Summary
PlantTech is a new industry-led research organisation based in the Western Bay of Plenty, focussed on technology and innovation in premium, plant-based value chains
PlantTech will leverage the Western Bay of Plenty’s regional strengths in horticulture to create a unique applied research capability that can accelerate innovation for knowledge-intensive companies, the region and New Zealand. PlantTech’s founders include eight companies (Bluelab, Cucumber, GPS-It, Eurofins, Plus Group Horticulture, Trimax Mowing Systems, Waka Digital and Zespri International) alongside the University of Waikato and Priority One (the Western Bay of Plenty’s economic development organisation). These organisations all share a vision for a collaborative R&D capability that will improve their global competitiveness, and the regional and national innovation systems they work in.
The PlantTech concept has been developed based on international evidence about best practice for regional innovation and the opportunity arises from two related regional needs: firstly, for regional businesses, who need better access to expert knowledge, capability and networks; and secondly, for regional horticultural industries who need to accelerate the development and adoption of new technologies to improve productivity and sustainability.
PlantTech’s value proposition is therefore in applied scientific research and related innovation at the interface of digital and natural systems, design-led innovation and market drivers from a variety of companies. We aim to be a world leader in enabling customised, precise and automated production systems for premium, natural plant production, management and distribution, and in making these systems accessible to businesses at a range of scales. For the first stages of PlantTech’s operation, the focus will be on research to enable digital and automation solutions applied for growers and managers of operations or crops. Our key research themes are in:
- Data integration and analytics
- Autonomous devices and vehicles
- Point of use decision support tools
While the Western Bay provides the ‘lab’ in which the work will be conducted, PlantTech’s research will contribute to outcomes in many sectors, and will be commercialised nationally and globally in markets ranging from sports facilities to hydroponics to logistics to other primary industries, as well as horticulture such as kiwifruit.
PlantTech’s Western Bay of Plenty focus reflects both relevant industry strengths and an initial grouping of companies that have established relationships and a shared vision, who provide a cohesive drive and focus to support the establishment of this new entity. This regional focus is not exclusive however and our ambition is to grow a national network that any company with relevant interests can benefit from. We aim to grow membership to at least 20 companies within five years, including other regions across New Zealand. Other companies will be able to access PlantTech’s capability through associate memberships and project work.
PlantTech will be established as a private company, governed by an independent Board of Directors. PlantTech’s shareholders have committed to a membership model where they make annual contributions in return for rights to control PlantTech’s overall direction and to research outputs and capability. This collaborative membership model provides a secure, committed base of private sector revenue that will enable PlantTech to provide a distinctive role in the regional and national innovation system, and ensures clear company leadership in its ongoing development.
PlantTech’s staff will be led by a Chief Executive and three Research Directors, supported by an in-house research team with capability in computer sciences, engineering and plant systems. Staff will also coordinate a network of relationships with key research organisations and other providers regionally, nationally and internationally, to deliver its research programme.
Start-up investment of $8.4m for PlantTech has been secured through the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment’s Regional Research Institute (RRI) fund, announced July 2017. By year five (2022) total private investment will exceed Government investment and by year ten (2026) will comprise up to 80% of the total.