Three years ago Genevieve Griffin-George was flung into running her family’s gold kiwifruit orchard near Motueka, when her father Ian had a serious tractor accident.
She’d worked on-orchard before but had never run the entire operation, so gained “first-hand experience of everything that wasn’t working”.
“One major hurdle was finding seasonal staff when we needed them – it was so difficult. It was literally me jumping in a car to go find them at the local backpacker hostel and all the paperwork that came along with it – it just took me so much time.
“And it was taking me away from the orchard and the things I wanted to do.”
There, the idea of PICMI – a cloud-based software designed to simplify the employment process for agricultural and horticultural seasonal staff – was born.
Last month Genevieve was in the Innovations Tent at Fieldays, showing thousands of farmers and growers how PICMI works for them – so they spend less time on employment-related paperwork.
There PICMI won the Fieldays Grassroots Protoype Award, the Vodafone Innovation Technology Award and the James & Wells Innovation Award.
Genevieve developed PICMI after being picked as one of 12 start-ups from across NZ and Australia out of 600 applications for a six-month intensive tech accelerator programme Xcelerate in 2018.
“I spent six months in Sydney building the web-responsive app. We’ve been trialling it with growers in the South Island – I was recently in Tauranga to begin testing it with orchardists and orchard management businesses, which require large numbers staff for all parts of the kiwifruit season.
“These businesses can hire 300-400 people. Our process could save them hours – that’s before they even hire someone.”
Genevieve says PICMI removes all administration required when hiring short-term staff. “The product gathers health and safety information, bank account details, personal identification documents and can verify visas.
“It basically saves this information for each individual employee in a central zone so employers have access to this information from anywhere.”
Genevieve says the secret to PICMI is it gets workers to log their own data in a worker profile – taking the task away from employers, thus cutting paperwork time. “The employer logs into their portal where it takes them 15 seconds to invite a worker. An automatic emailed is sent that guides a worker to create a profile – this is then shared with the grower.”
Growers pay a nominal amount per match, while workers seeking employment can access it for free.
And Genevieve says this is only the beginning for PICMI. “Now we’re looking at how we might integrate with Xero so we can direct PAYE accounts; how we can develop monthly reports because hiring RSE workers and the documentation required by the Ministry of Social Development is very time-consuming; so we’re trying to automate that and simplify it down. From there we’ll make a big push on building the marketplace.”
With labour shortages declared in two key growing regions in NZ in the last two harvests, Genevieve says PICMI can lessen time orchardists spend on finding workers and make it easier for people wanting to work in this industry to get jobs quicker.
“Rather than having a sign outside your orchard and hoping someone will drive past, we’re digitising that process. This allows people looking for the work to actually know where it is and plan it into their journey.”
Genevieve is marketing PICMI on social platforms such as Facebook so would-be workers – such as foreign travellers – can secure jobs before they hit NZ soil. “This means these people can look at what work is available and when before they apply for a visa to visit and work in NZ.”
“This way they have a plan to fund their trip – and growers already know they have workers coming.
“We know labour shortage is a huge issue in our industry – we’re not saying we have all the answers, but we want to work with growers to understand what their needs are.”
Orchardist feedback at Fieldays was mainly surprise, says Genevieve. “They’ve never been offered something like this to utilise before.
“Obviously there’s cultural shift that needs to happen – but once they see how the product works they are keen to use it because it’s been designed to be simple and easy to use. And we’ve designed it with growers – so it’s intuitive to what they need.”