A Tauranga business owner has won a prestigious annual New Zealand Kiwifruit Innovation Award for an inventive approach to orchard spraying.
Seespray managing director Vicky Smith collected her trophy at last night's Zespri Harvest Dinner for her community notification and spray management system.
Smith's business helps about 1000 kiwifruit and other orchards manage spray requirements while automatically sharing spray activity information with about 10,000 of their staff and neighbours, including local schools.
Smith said the award was "huge, exciting and quite overwhelming".
"It's a validation that the work myself and my team are doing really is making a difference," she said.
"Starting any business is challenging, let alone in an industry that is new to you. We set out to build a solution that was better for both sides of the fence and I think we have, I'm really proud."
Growers subscribe to Seespray, while neighbours can access it free – they receive a text, email or phone call whenever spraying contractors are working in their area.
Smith launched her business in 2015, spurred by her move to a rural property with two young children. She became frustrated when sprayers would appear without warning, while her children played outside.
"I had no idea what chemicals were being sprayed or what precautions I needed to take, it was quite unnerving," she said.
"Once I started working with orchardists and sprayers, I saw first hand that they genuinely care, they just needed an economic and efficient way to keep their communities informed."
Her business focuses primarily on Western Bay of Plenty kiwifruit and avocado orchards but has recently spread into the Eastern Bay of Plenty and Northland, to berry orchards and other horticultural crops. Smith was also speaking with apple orchardists in other regions.
Zespri chairman and judge Peter McBride said Smith's innovation was a great use of technology and helped orchardists to care for and talk with their communities.
"Our growers have certainly embraced it and if other horticultural industries can take and use it, even better," he said.
Last year's trophy, established by former Kiwifruit New Zealand chairman Sir Brian Elwood, was won by Zespri marketing leader Kanako Inomata.
Inomata developed a new approach to engaging young consumers in Japan based on consumer insights.