Further investment in Robotics Plus technology

1 March 2021

ACC’s Impact Investment Fund has taken a share in one of the world’s top 50 innovative robotics companies in a partnership to improve the wellbeing of those working in some of New Zealand’s most dangerous industries.

Tauranga-based Robotics Plus is the first successful opportunity for ACC’s new Impact Funds which has twin objectives – to improve the health, safety, and wellbeing of New Zealanders and provide a strong investment return that helps Kiwis pay less in levies for accident cover.

The technology being developed by Robotics Plus is designed to keep forestry, agriculture and transport workers safe and is attracting global interest. Its innovations include a Robotic Scaling Machine (RSM) that can more quickly and accurately measure the volume of timber on logging trucks, eliminating what is a dangerous manual task at ports, forestry sites and sawmills.

ACC’s investment sits within the target range of NZ$2 million to NZ$15 million that is consistent with the initial announcement for the Impact Fund. “We are excited to partner with Robotics Plus to take this innovative Kiwi technology to the rest of the world” says ACC’s Head of Private Markets, Martin Goldfinch.

Robotics Plus co-founder and CEO Steve Saunders (who is presenting this year at the upcoming HarvestTECH 2021 event welcomed ACC on board as an investor. “It’s great to have ACC investing in Robotics Plus alongside the continued support of Japan’s Yamaha Motor Co.,” he said.

“The investment will help us accelerate the development of our advanced technologies that help solve complex global problems, including robotic log scaling technology, as we scale up rapidly and enter new markets internationally whilst providing solutions domestically,” Saunders says.

Logs are New Zealand’s third-biggest export, worth NZ$4.5 billion in 2020. But log handling is also a major cause of workplace injuries, with some 17,000 active claims costing NZ$75 million last year, ACC data shows.

Mt Maunganui-based port logistics company ISO Limited, which handles more than half of New Zealand’s log exports, has recorded no injuries or fatalities in log scaling since installing 11 RSMs at sites across the North and South Islands. The move has also allowed workers that were doing this task manually to be moved to higher skilled positions.

“It’s safer and more productive than the previous manual system used throughout the world which requires people to manually scan and measure the logs by climbing on to trucks and trailers to perform the task,” says Paul Cameron, CEO of ISO.

The RSM, developed in collaboration with ISO, led to Robotics Plus being listed on Robotics Business Review’s top 50 most transformative companies in the global robotics sector in 2020. The technology is among a suite of innovative projects Robotics Plus has developed, including robotic fruit packers that reduce the musculoskeletal strains and injuries associated with repetitive manual tasks, and robots capable of a variety of tasks in horticulture.