When a company is ready to take its ideas to a global market, Callaghan Innovation can help. Nathan Stantiall has worked with a Kiwi firm that has innovation sorted – literally.
One of New Zealand’s best kept secrets, most people wouldn’t be able to identify what Auckland based company Compac does. But that is all set to change as the company expands and looks to break the $100m revenue barrier.
Compac operates in the fruit sorting sector, and its unique approach to inspection and handling has created a world leader in sorting and packing solutions for key fruit production markets such as the US, where their largest customer processes over 52 million mandarins a day.
At Callaghan Innovation we saw an opportunity to work with an innovative company with a global opportunity. Compac was one of the first companies to take part in our Growth Grant program, and it’s paying dividends already.
A Growth Grant offers a 20% return on eligible R&D spend for those businesses meeting the threshold criteria. However it’s not enough to just hand over a cheque – the reason the program is so successful, is because we work side-by-side with our partners.
My role with Compac is a Business Innovation Advisor which is part of our new approach to engaging with innovative companies. This involves a deeper engagement with the business and offering support as it needs it. For Compac that has been in IP strategy, Innovation Best Practice and making connections to other businesses, providers and research facilities. Most recently we had our Food Technology Network Manager visit to lend a hand in food compliance.
Compac was founded in 1984 by kiwi engineer Hamish Kennedy, to automate the kiwifruit sorting process. Today the company employs over 500 staff globally, including 25 software developers working to build better vision-based scanning services, which work as part of the solution to sort fruit by size, shape, colour, weight and surface defects.
Compac is growing in excess of 20% year on year, and since our support began has doubled the size of its research and development team, from around 50 to 100 staff. CEO Mike Riley says the investment they receive from Callaghan allows them to do things they may not otherwise be able to afford to do in R&D, and lead the way in innovative fruit sorting and packing solutions as a result.
Compac Product Manager Karl Sievwright, says Callaghan support has helped the company adapt its proven technology for use in the cherry market, helping fend off competitors and secure the bulk of the US cherry industry’s needs. He says Compac couldn’t have achieved this so quickly without Callaghan Innovation support. This is exactly the kind of help we want to give New Zealand’s innovation sector.
By working closely with Compac, we’re helping a New Zealand business raise the standards of a global industry. With Compac we believe we’re onto something special.
Nathan Stantiall is a Business Innovation Adviser at Callaghan Innovation, the government’s business innovation agency. We help businesses succeed through technology. Contact us on 0800 4 22522