Metris | Taking the guesswork out of growing

It’s true that you can’t control the weather, but thanks to science and modern technology, it’s now possible to eliminate some of the risk factors from the business of growing crops. And for that, growers are thankful.

Hawke’s Bay business, Metris has been providing weather services to horticulture and agriculture clients for 25 years. During this time, they’ve gained clients from all over New Zealand and in future, plan to expand services offshore.

Atmospheric scientist, Mark Bart is the managing director of Metris. Having purchased the business two years ago from its founding owner, Howard Staines (who remains on as a weather forecaster at Metris) Mark and his team are currently adding new products and services to extend what is offered.

“Originally, Metris was solely a weather forecasting business, but in the last two years, we’ve developed new sensor technologies to put in orchards for measuring purposes. It allows us to provide orchardists with automated alerts via text and phone, notifying them about specific weather events and giving them real-time updates on frost, wind, rain and temperature. We also run a couple of plant disease models for botrytis and blackspot forecasting to help with their spray programmes.”

Mark explains, “Traditionally, there was usually one weather station for a whole region such as Hawke’s Bay, but with the wireless internet it’s now possible to get more coverage and readily available, localised information. Our goal is to provide fast, accurate data in an easy to read format to help our clients reduce their weather risk and enable them to plan their day and week. For example, on a frosty night, we send out frost alerts ahead of time to around 5,000 people. The ability to do that, has a big impact on the industry.”

As well, Metris provide APIs (Application Programming Interface) for weather forecasts and measurements for third-party app and website developers, plus weather modelling and data supply for developers and engineering consultants.

In 2019, Metris won the Hawke’s Bay, BWR Primary Sector Innovation Award. Commenting on the win, Mark says, “I think it reflects the fact that our business model is different from others in our field. We offer a full- service model that includes sensor installation and a monthly fee. Corporate growers, who are time poor, are happy with that setup and leave it to us to monitor and fix, if necessary. It makes it simpler for them from an operational and accounting point of view.”

Mark Knofflock, director at Moore Stephens Markhams Hawke’s Bay, has worked closely with Mark ever since he took over Metris. “When we went looking for a good accountant, Mark came well recommended; we met with him and found him very friendly, so that was it.

“This is my first business, so it’s a new experience; I’ve been a shareholder in a business previously but never a managing director. Mark has been a great help, and has always been willing to answer any questions, especially at the outset when we needed to go through the balance sheets.

“Weather stations are a big capital outlay and getting the right structure in place with shareholders and helping us set up Xero accounting, was important. Mark is also very quick to get the right paperwork in place at all times, which I appreciate.”