Covid has been the catalyst for an award-winning Tauranga company to seize global opportunities that have seen its revenue grow 88 per cent, staff numbers double and allowed a major expansion.
Bluelab is no stranger to success but when Wuhan in China went into lockdown last year it forced the company into a make-or-break situation, as the manufacturer of one of their critical components was in the epicentre of the pandemic.
Chief executive Greg Jarvis said rather than accepting defeat the company rallied, transformed and responded to a rapidly growing global market during significant supply chain challenges.
He said they were already poised to capitalise on the global focus on plant-based diets and concern about climate change with their suite of state-of-the-art monitoring and control equipment for hydroponic and commercial plant growers worldwide.
Faced with unprecedented disruption, Jarvis said the Bluelab team made a conscious decision to use the pandemic as a catalyst for change in every part of their business.
In June, Bluelab launched ''our new purpose: the art of growing for a healthier world''.
"We turned to technology as our solution by significantly bolstering our digital offerings to help pull down the barriers to Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), making this sustainable growing method much more accessible," said Jarvis.
Hydroponics and CEA allowed growers to grow more crops in less space without being dependent on weather conditions, he said.
Both climate change and the pandemic have increased the popularity of this production method because it also enables crops to be grown closer to markets with lower use of transport, water and pesticides.
"CEA enables more crops to be grown with less impact and in new places. The environments range from partially protected greenhouses and hoop houses to fully contained indoor farms in warehouses or dedicated growing facilities."
"When compared to field agriculture, CEA is much more productive per square foot and uses up to 95 per cent less water. We believe in the art of growing for a healthier world," Jarvis said.
Maintaining their workflow and their New Zealand-based manufacturing operations enabled Bluelab to expand rapidly to meet growing market demand.
A recent refit of their premises in Tauranga at Tauriko Business Estate reflected that growth, he said.
"In 12 months, our New Zealand team has doubled in size from 54 in March 2020 to 112 today. Revenue is up 88 per cent, we doubled our warehousing, found new supply chain partners and launched a new purpose, brand, e-commerce store, CRM and integrated software suite to power the business."
The company has doubled the floor space of their office and adopted an open-plan layout to foster collaboration. It also built on a new warehouse space, doubling capacity.
The new interior design features custom-designed tables and plant walls, a modern kitchen and mezzanine floors. While the refurbishment was initially driven by expansion, Jarvis notes that it has also been critical to staff wellbeing.
"Looking after our staff is the most important part of anything we do. Attracting and retaining top talent means we can help more customers find success in controlled environment agriculture so that we can all live in a healthier world."
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said Bluelab was a great local success story.
''They are exactly the type of business that we need more of; with innovative and smart products backed by a great team – their success is a credit to Greg and Mandy Jarvis.''
Technology and innovation-based companies would be the future of the New Zealand economy, he said.
"Leaders like Bluelab help encourage others. We're fortunate that Tauranga has a community of innovators and exporters that work well together and act as a team."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said the uncertainty of Covid had created infinite opportunities for emerging companies to make big plays.
"While big, publicly listed corporates have stock prices to worry about, companies like Bluelab can make big strategic moves and take customers from the bigger players."
New Zealand's isolation had always meant Kiwis had to be resourceful and innovative, he said.
Tauriko Business Estate director Bryce Donne said it was great to see a local business like Bluelab succeeding on an international scale through innovation and specialisation.
''We wish them every success going forward. It is also great to hear they have taken on new people as well.''.