Collaboration key to success

Andrew Cooke from Rezare Systems. Image provided by Rezare Systems

Hamilton agricultural software development company Rezare Systems has gone from strength to strength since its launch in 2004.

Based at Waikato Innovation Park, the company provides ideas, guidance, software and product development expertise to those working in the agricultural sector.

They have partnered with the likes of DairyNZ, Fonterra, Gallagher and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on innovative IT projects of national significance to the agricultural sector.

Investing in agri-tech is vital for primary industries both nationally and internationally, says Rezare co-founder and CEO Andrew Cooke.

“We are trying to produce better milk, look after the environment, look after animals better and we want to tell the story of the product and where it has come from,” says Cooke. “We believe technology will help farmers with all of these things. It’s an exciting space to be in.”

Rezare has its origins in the Crown Research Institute at AgResearch in Ruakura, where five colleagues got together 13 years ago to launch a commercial company. They have grown to a company with 27 staff.

They take a design-led approach to projects, inspired by design thinking from Stanford University’s d. school, which focuses on how real users will behave, think and feel when interacting with the end product.

“It’s not just about understanding the task at hand, but how someone might use the software or app, including their environment and what they are trying to achieve,” says Cooke.

They take data, run it through mathematical models and use that to predict things, says Cooke. “The core of what we do involves mobile and web-based apps, and using database modelling to make predications, especially related to farming. We are constantly thinking ahead of the curve to develop what is needed by the industry.”

Rezare recently partnered with the Gallagher Group to develop a dashboard that allows farmers to directly share and analyse information online. The collaboration was positive for both parties, pairing Rezare’s capabilities with Gallagher’s channel and reach.

Craig Purcell, from Waikato Innovation Park’s Business Growth team, has worked with Rezare for many years, and says the company is a great example of a collaborative business.

“If you collaborate with someone you can innovate a lot faster in the medium term,” says Purcell. “For a small or medium-sized business, collaborating with an industry association or larger company can aid credibility, help share costs and research, and improve customer reach.”

The Waikato Business Growth team offers free advice and business support to Waikato-area entrepreneurs and start-ups. It is funded by the Regional Business Partner Network (RBPN) which is supported by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) and Callaghan Innovation.

Their aim is to support businesses who have high-growth aspirations, are export focused, technology-driven or have innovative products or services with real commercial merit.

Purcell has assisted Rezare in applying for funding to grow their business, including Callaghan Innovation project grants and student grants.

The grants have enabled Rezare to trial ideas and develop technologies that the company could build on for future products and services. The Callaghan Innovation R&D Experience Grants have allowed the company to employ undergraduate students for small research and development projects over their summer breaks. “We’ve found a number of employees that way as well as testing product ideas,” says Cooke. “The scheme has also contributed to a good working relationship with Waikato University.”

Purcell says another strength of Rezare is that the company’s senior team are “willing to take risks, but do so in a managed way”.

“They are quite systematic in the analysis of the projects they will and won’t do,” says Purcell. “They make use of the Callaghan Innovation grants to de-risk. In deciding whether or not to do something, they approach us for funding, which enables them to assess the relative risk so they can make a decision about each project.”

Purcell leads a team of business advisors including Kahurangi Taylor, Hayley Smith, Peter Davey, Novell Gopal and Waikato mentor manager Tony Kane.

The business advisors meet with around 500 businesses every year. About 60 per cent of those are outside Hamilton, and once a month advisors travel to seven regional Waikato towns – Thames, Paeroa, Tokoroa, Taupo, Raglan, Huntly and Tuakau – to meet with start-ups and other businesses.

An initial ‘discovery’ meeting is typically followed by an action plan that details opportunities as well as barriers to growth.

To date the team has engaged with more than 1400 businesses.

Purcell says it is important for those with innovative business ideas or products to get advice early on, as they may be eligible for a Callaghan Innovation ‘Getting Started’ Grant.

Others can access Regional Business Partner co-funding through the NZTE Capability Development Voucher Scheme. These vouchers enable people to upskill in areas such as strategic planning, marketing, capital raising, business systems, finance, sustainability, managing resources, governance and exporting – with access to around 60 local coaches and trainers.

Rezare has plans to expand into Australia, and their latest hire is a business development manager based in New South Wales. “We are still growing in New Zealand and still trying to make the most of every opportunity, but there are lots of international opportunities,” says Cooke.

Australia has a lot of similarities to New Zealand, says Cooke, which makes it an attractive place to expand into. “They are not the same as New Zealand, but there are a number of things that are similar, in terms of the need to manage livestock and lots of investment happening in technology,” says Cooke.

No matter what the future holds, Cooke says collaboration with others will remain a key part of Rezare’s focus, to continue innovating in the agri-tech space.

Source: Rezare Systems

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