Nelson tech firm’s smart camera snapped up on high seas

“We started out with a bunch of ideas, but we were really just looking for problems to solve."

A strategic approach to innovation is paying off for two Nelson brothers who, with the help of Callaghan Innovation, have transformed a high-tech business born in a garage into a global exporter of a smart camera product for fisheries management.

As owners of Snap Information Technologies (SnapIT), Chris and Andrew Rodley did not have expertise in camera hardware development at the outset - Chris was a teacher and Andrew a manager - but they had a love of creating innovative ideas and solving problems.

“We started out with a bunch of ideas, but we were really just looking for problems to solve,” says Chris Rodley. “It's been extremely challenging but extremely rewarding as well.”

Now their company employs nine staff and is growing.

The SnapitHD camera developed for fishing vessels is sought after in New Zealand and Fiji, and enquiries are coming in from further afield.

Chris Rodley says there are variations of the camera that can provide a 360 degree overview of activity on a vessel or focus in on specific areas, which are used in a wide range of government and industry applications including compliance, health and safety and operational monitoring.

“We see our mission in business as helping to ensure sustainable global fisheries, so our children can continue to eat fish,” Chris Rodley adds.

Time-lapse images from cameras the Rodley developed and installed at tourist destinations, can be seen on the Met service website and they have also been used by TV3 for their weather broadcast.

The brothers says the Callaghan Innovation has assisted the Nelson-based company not only through R&D project funding, but also strategic advice and support including project road-mapping, connections to high-end suppliers, and accelerating the entire project.

Chris Rodley says without Callaghan Innovation’s support they wouldn’t be where they are today.

“We work closely with our business innovation adviser at Callaghan Innovation,” he adds. “We run crazy ideas and new concepts past him, and engage him in important discussions around crucial topics.”

The business innovation adviser, Callaghan Innovation’s Paul Elmes, says SnapIT has gone from strength to strength and is now on the verge of something big.

“I’m happy to be phoned up to bounce ideas off,” he adds. “We’ve developed a good rapport and I’m able to prompt them with questions. It’s nice working with people who are so receptive.”

SnapIT is working with seafood industry research provider Trident Systems, a partnership involving some of New Zealand’s largest fisheries companies, to adapt and refine their cameras and services for the seafood industry.

A new version of the camera that is 90 percent smaller and built from stainless steel is currently being rolled out.

SnapIT is also developing expertise in transferring, transmitting and analysing the hundreds of gigabytes of data from the cameras that can accumulate after weeks of 24x7 operation on a fishing vessel.

“You can’t buy something off the shelf for this,” Chris Rodley adds. “We believe this is a world leading, innovative solution for a significant global problem.”

Read more: Callaghan Innovation CEO Mary Quin resigns

SnapIT recently won the Most Innovative Hi-Tech Agritech Product Award at the NZ Hi-Tech Awards announced on May 15.

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