Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Snap tech helps fishing industry make good decisions

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Snap Group captures a hi-tech market
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Snap Group has come a long way from Dave Rodley’s garage where his sons Chris and Andrew first started playing around with webcams. 

Rodley Snr, who worked as an electrical engineer, put a camera on his holiday home in Hanmer Springs so he could keep an eye on the weather from his home in Nelson. 

It was a bit of novelty back in the early 2000s, a fact reflected in the $5000 price tag to import the camera from the US. 

“It was probably one of the first webcams in New Zealand,” Chris Rodley, the chief executiver and co-founder of Snap Group, said.

“But it was a crap piece of kit that took terrible photos. We figured we could do better. We bought a camera for $100, took it apart, hacked it, soldered new stuff onto it and embedded a tiny microprocessor that uploaded data to the web.”

Their high-definition camera caught the attention of tourism operators, MetService, TV3 weather and construction sites. 

It was while working on a job for ASB in Auckland that Chris stumbled on an opportunity that changed the direction of the company. 

“I was up a ladder installing a camera when the CEO of one of the largest fishing companies in New Zealand walked past and said, ‘Can you put that camera on a boat?’” he says.

“We talked to Callaghan Innovation who helped us develop a marine-proof, AI enabled camera and within ten days we pitched to ten fishing companies and haven’t looked back since.”

The company received a number of 50% co-funded grants from Callaghan Innovation worth $2 million, which helped pay for R&D as well as help and guidance from NZTE and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). 

Callaghan also provided strategic advice and support including project road-mapping, connections to high-end suppliers and helped confirm the company was focusing on the right opportunity. 

“The support from Callaghan enabled us to hone our commercial skills, not just the technology and IP that startups tend to focus on,” Chris said. 

“That was really helpful for us.

“The temptation is to think that your product — in our case the camera and the data capability behind the technology — is the star. But actually the customer’s problem should be the star, not your solution. When we’re working with any client or sector the first question we ask is ‘What’s the problem you need to solve?’”

Snap offers GPS tracking, satellite communication, on-board video cameras, and specialises in AI-driven data storage which is capable of identifying fish species, type, and size. By auditing catch limits it enables safe, legal fishing practices that reduces compliance costs and assures the ongoing sustainability of our wild fisheries.

In 2021, the Nelson-based company acquired Canadian partner Teem Fish Monitoring, a fisheries enterprise using advanced electronic monitoring (EM) technology to support fish harvesters to meet their regulatory requirements and ensure the future of sustainable commercial fisheries. 

Before acquiring Teem Fish, Snap already delivered the majority of Teem Fish’s hardware and software required for its fisheries monitoring systems.

“It made sense to combine our two areas of expertise,” Rodley said. 

“It will help both companies to scale quicker than they could have otherwise. Using our tech and Teem Fish’s understanding of fisheries, we know we can assist fishermen with a compliance solution, but also take that data and repurpose it for business intelligence.

“The real benefit comes from empowering fishermen to make changes to their business. The value isn’t the camera or the data; it’s what you can do with the data. Good information leads to good decisions. If we know how many fish there are in the ocean we can set appropriate fishing levels so our children and grandchildren can eat fish from the ocean when we’re gone.”

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