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Innovation powers agricultural business

When Andrew and his brother Peter purchased a Swannanoa-based agricultural spraying business 14 years ago, it was a one-man band. 

The siblings took on the challenge rather suddenly after the previous owner passed away, and Gilchrist Brothers started to take shape.

Thanks to advances in technology and increased demand, the pair have grown their business to include five spray rigs, three tractors, eight full time staff and 170 hectares of leased land. 

Gilchrist Brothers provides spraying, cultivation, specialist planting, agronomic advice and liquid fertiliser cartage to the agricultural sector. They also build specialised spray trucks for their own business and for contractors throughout New Zealand.

Director and general manager Andrew and his brother Peter run the business together, focusing on their individual areas of expertise.

“We lead it together, Peter runs spraying operations and I run the tractors, oversee the engineering and the farms.”

Andrew also manages strategic planning and staff, much of which relies on new forms of technology to ensure accurate location advice is provided to the team.

The business relies on GPS for mapping which is integrated into job sheets. Technology is an integral part of all business processes and Andrew says advances in digital technology have boosted productivity and efficiency.

“We’d be totally stuffed without the internet. We rely on Tracmap job management for all our mapping; every spray rig is directed to the job with this. It includes all the data needed for the job and paddock locations.

“It’s allowed us to be a lot more efficient than the old paper maps, or no map at all. Sometimes we used to turn up and the client would take you to the right paddock. When it was just two of us that was ok, but when you have seven staff going out and doing two to 10 jobs each day, it’s not efficient.”

Cloud-based software has also enabled Gilchrist Brothers to manage their invoicing online which streamlines the accounts process. 

Smartphone technology has also simplified staff management systems and allows Andrew to manage jobs remotely.

“Using my I-phone, I can be anywhere at any time and know exactly where everyone is and what they have or haven’t achieved.”

“The Tracmap units in the spray trucks sends information straight from the spray trucks to the office and vice versa.”

The business focuses on delivering a high-quality service and product to all clients and Andrew credits advances in technology with enabling them to do that more efficiently.

“It’s very hard to put a dollar value on [the benefit of connectivity], but we put new systems in relatively early on and this allows us to do more, to achieve more in a timely manner for our clients; it increases productivity and efficiency,” he says.

“In the long run that all flows on to better products for the end user, be it grass, or flowers, or pumpkins, or whatever it may be.”

Gilchrist Brothers has remained ahead of the game in terms of embracing new technology, and they encourage other business, whatever the industry, to give things a go.

“Get as much of new technology as you can to stay ahead and keep evolving.”

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