Meet the Kiwi inventor from Sprint Global who hopes orchard growers and seasonal workers can connect more efficiently using her platform.
An inventor attending a Melbourne agricultural tech conference hopes orchard growers and seasonal workers can connect more efficiently using PICMI to help orchardists find workers for pruning, thinning, harvesting and packing at optimal times — “before you put the piece of fruit in your mouth.”
Genevieve Griffin-George created staffing app PICMI in 2017. PICMI is equally about helping workers on holiday visas get prepared with New Zealand bank accounts, legal and wage information and health and safety briefings to minimise hold-ups.
Motueka-based Griffin-George began the agtech app three years ago after her dad suffered a serious tractor accident. “I had to step up and run our kiwifruit orchard. One of the pain points I learned from was not having seasonal staff, which impacted the quality of our produce. I learned what the needs of growers and farmers are so they can have time off – because you can’t go on holiday and ask the plants to stop growing.”
PICMI is one of eight businesses in this year’s Sprint Global 2019 accelerator for startups with the ecentre business incubator hosted at Massey University. On 19 February, Griffin-George was part of a delegation of 100 New Zealand businesspeople attending evokeAG, Melbourne’s biggest agtech conference, helped by Callaghan Innovation and Agritech New Zealand. A number of ecentre alumni also attended.
Like many of the startups in the Sprint Global programme, Griffin-George said her business is testing in New Zealand before entering Australia and other global markets. However Griffin-George wasn’t aware of anyone at the conference offering a similar product to PICMI.
“Quite a few people asked me when I was going to come into Australia. Australian government agencies are really excited about what I am building. We also had interest from the UK.”
Griffin-George said she wanted to support Tasman growers’ needs initially and New Zealand had been perfect for testing before eyeing up Australia, where she was chuffed to be a joint NSW Farmers New Inventors Award winner at Australian National Field Days 2018.
Griffin-George said PICMI helps enable up to 70,000 travellers who come to New Zealand “to plan work alongside their adventure.”
PICMI is also inspired by Griffin-George’s experience living in eight countries while growing up and travelling constantly.
“It can be hard to understand what you need when you arrive somewhere new, simple things like what bank you should use, your legal rights, minimum wage, knowing you’ve got to bring your lunch to work and sunblock and a hat… even simple things like knowing on an orchard you need to have covered shoes – and also explaining what is smoko!”
“Unless you’ve worked in an industry you wouldn’t know. But once you’ve created a PICMI profile, you’re ready.”
Griffin-George says any farm produce which requires seasonal labour can benefit from PICMI, including mangoes, bananas, strawberries and apples.
The Ministry for Primary Industries Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries (SOPI) report for December 2018 forecast horticulture revenue to rise 12 percent this year to NZ$6 billion, driven firstly by kiwifruit revenue, which is forecast to leap 21 percent with rising prices and a big 2018 harvest. Wine, apple and pear revenue are also up.
Inefficiencies in the seasonal worker market are a global problem worldwide from California to Brexit, Griffin-George adds, and New Zealand can help develop solutions.
Seasonal harvesting and pruning in New Zealand alone requires 30,000 workers according to recent estimates. New Zealand last year increased the Recognised Seasonal Employer cap on seasonal workers to 12,850, up 15.8 percent.
“A lot of growers put up a sign outside the orchard and hope someone will drive past and there’s no control over who will come through your doors,” Griffin-George says. “Workers also find the process isn’t usually digitised, workers don’t know where the work is. We use technology to put two and two together. PICMI is the connector. We match workers with the best job for them.”
evokeAG was the first of its kind in Melbourne, with 1150 attendees learning about edible crickets, Dutch greenhouses, Israeli agtech and even 24 hour molecular whiskey brewed in laboratories.
In Australia alone, the Agritech sector is estimated to be a $100 billion industry by 2030 (rivalling the mining and construction sectors).
About ecentre’s Sprint Global startup programme
The ecentre’s Sprint Global 2019 accelerator programme was launched in January 2019. Sprint Global takes early stage startups with a validated business model and accelerates their customer acquisition and global expansion by providing access to mentors, sector experts, investors and other resources. Find out more about Sprint Global here.