On the farm start-up for school friends

On the farm start-up for school friends

19 June 2019

Conversations that began ‘over a beer’ have evolved into an IT start-up venture for four St Paul’s Collegians.

Richard Wildman (Williams 1997-2001), Marcus Graham (Sargood 1997-2001), Mike Jenkins (School 1997-2001) and Scott Townshend (Clark 1999-2001) own Knode, a farm monitoring system, which uses the latest technology to help farmers remotely monitor their assets, through the installation of sensors.

Sensor data is transmitted direct to ‘cloud’ storage; then processed, analysed, and presented through dashboards on the farmer’s own phone, tablet or computer.

Richard, 35, who started the venture in 2016, works as managing director in the business.

Marcus is farming in Ohaupo; Mike runs the cloud services business The Instillery in Hamilton; and Scott owns a consultancy business in Ngatea.

Together they bring varying skills and years of commercial experience to the business.

“We have all been exposed to what was happening in technology outside ag, and outside New Zealand, and we are looking at how we can essentially give farmers in New Zealand easier access to some of that stuff.”

When he left school, Richard studied mechanical engineering at the University of Canterbury. He then spent several years overseas, working in the oil and gas industry.

He specialised in sensor technology and travelled extensively from his Perth base to places including Kazakhstan, Egypt, Papua New Guinea and the US. He then worked for a commercial business insurance firm in Sydney, and later Auckland.

“It was around that time I started talking to some old school mates about the different applications of technology in the ag-tech space in New Zealand.”

The Knode concept was first developed on Richard’s family farm in Te Kuiti. “My old man was having problems managing water, essentially running out of water and having lots of water leaks and chasing his tail all day trying to find out where the problems were.”

“So, we looked at ways to make that more visible without having to run around the farm, and that is when we put different sensors into the water tanks and distribution lines.”

Knode allows the data to be transmitted back to the cloud, and then is presented on a ‘dashboard’ on the app.

So far, there has been strong interest in the Knode technology for farmers wanting to find efficiencies in their business. As well as water management, the application can be used in other areas, from managing effluent spread to milk temperature monitoring.

“It turned out that farmers were not the only ones who wanted the technology, so we are now working with vehicle tracking and in industrial plants, to drive business insights.”

Knode will be at the Fieldays for a second year, sharing a stand with a business owned by Scott called Trev, another ag-tech company which assists farmers to benchmark farm performance.

Richard, who spoke to Network on behalf of the group, lives in Auckland. He and partner Sarah have a son Ralph, 2, and another child due in August.

Written by Monica Holt

(Source: Network Issue 97)