Stu Bradbury and George Ricketts

Bachelor of Engineering (Hons)

Farmers around the globe are getting better crop yields and saving water after two Massey graduates developed a world-first widget.

From their student flat, then-engineering students Stu Bradbury and George Ricketts built the software and hardware necessary to record GPS points and plot maps of farms.

Their farm mapping and irrigation technology company has been bought by a global corporation for millions of dollars, and will soon be mapping the farms of the world.

Stu and George started developing their technology during weekends at uni.

Both were students of Massey’s Bachelor of Science (Mechatronics). Stu bought a hand-held global positioning system (GPS) on TradeMe because it ‘looked interesting’.

He wanted to make a map of the family farm, so his mate George built a data logger to plug in to the GPS – this was before GPS units had the memory to do this themselves – and they started plotting points in the paddocks and drawing a digital map from it.

After they graduated, they funded their business development by doing contract work – assembling irrigation systems built by Lindsay Corporation. And the rest, as they say, is history. Their products – Precision Irrigation and Wheresmycows were purchased by Lindsay Corporation and are going global.

The device and software helps farmers plot their land easily so they can calculate and budget for things like feed, fertiliser and materials for fencing; and create plans and budgets for big projects such as dairy conversions.

It’s leading to 30% savings of water on some farms, and a significant increase in crop yields. It also saves hard cash: it cuts pumping costs (usually the most expensive part of the process) because less water is needed.

One New Zealand farmer reports he saves up to NZ$700 every time he works out he can skip a day of irrigating.

They’ve developed new uses for their software like controlling how much water comes out of sprinklers, when and for how long, programming how much water is used on various parts of the paddock.

They’re also investigating how to deploy the technology in brand new agricultural areas: for example, growing rice under pivot irrigators, rather in traditional boggy paddy fields used for growing semiaquatic crops.