Founder: Joris Besamusca
What products, services, solutions or technology have you developed?
We are a software company that builds digital tools for viticulture.
Our core product is Integrape a decision support platform focussing on nutrition and variability in the vineyard. We aggregate and standardise data relevant to the health and production of the vines, to provide historical context and spatial oversights/insights to viticulturists and vineyard managers.
Designed as an independent, data-agnostic platform, Integrape integrates data from a variety of sources, bringing together lab results (such as soils/leaf/petiole) with winery data (yield & juice results) and historical vineyard records. Together these are overlaid with remote or proximal sensing data and soil information to allow viticulturists to make targeted, efficient decisions.
Vure is Integrape’s data collection app, which streamlines data collection for yield estimation and pest & disease monitoring. The iOS and Android field apps are designed specifically with scouting staff in mind and to provide them with a clean, easy to use interface. This allows them to confidently replace paper records with a cloud based solution, that provides access to results via the web admin as they are collected.
All data points are GPS referenced and timestamped with sampler IDs, as well as an option for additional context through photos or notes.
Together these platforms form a digital record of the vineyard.
WHAT KEY CUSTOMER PROBLEMS OR CUSTOMER “WANTS” DOES YOUR SOLUTION SOLVE?
Managing vineyards requires constant decisions relating to vineyard production and vine health. Often the information required to make these decisions is buried in different data formats and silos. From a range of web platforms, PDF reports, paper notebooks, intricate spreadsheets or even the previous vineyard manager’s email inbox. The disparate nature of the required data often means decisions are reactive or lacking the true context of a situation.
The Integrape platform works behind the scenes to pull this data into an easy to use interface so viticulturists, managers or consultants can make more informed decisions, with all the information at their fingertips when they need it.
For example – a winemaker may have reported low YAN (Yeast Assimilable Nitrogen) levels, which can contribute to fruity aromas in Sauvignon Blanc. The viticulturist can instantly track this trend over time compared to the nitrogen levels in the soil, through to the vine, then switch to a satellite view and compare the canopy nitrogen across their vineyards blocks to help establish any correlations or uncover underlying issues that may inform corrective actions.
Every vintage also sees a lot of data being collected manually by the vineyard team (or service providers), and again there was no standard approach for the collation, storage and presentation of this data. Gaining meaningful comparisons between seasons, or even datasets within the season can require time consuming – and error prone – re-entry or conversion of data.
These outdated workflows lead to issues around data quality and turnaround time – which in turn has knock on impacts on financial-impacting decisions such as crop thinning and winery tank space allocation, in addition to a number of other areas such as:
Who and where are your target customers?
At present, viticulturists and their teams are our main target users. Our focus has been on New Zealand, but we have started soft deployments with vineyards in the US, EU and Australia. Our platform also supports other crops, and although wine grapes are our focal point we constantly evaluate other sectors/opportunities.
How and when did you first come up with the idea for your business?
The original concept behind Integrape was actually my father Gerard’s, as a direct solution for a tool to help his consultancy twenty years ago. In order to help provide growers with the recommendations, he found the information he required was not available in one place.
In 2018 we completely rebuilt Integrape to be GIS based, and introduced new data layers such as remote sensing as well as redefining the platform as a standalone product rather than an in-house solution.
Vure was developed by Spore Lab, a Christchurch based Software Development company, who identified improvements and efficiencies in the yield estimation process for viticulture. Integrape acquired Vure in 2020 to complement our data aggregation offering.
Integrape has taken both these ideas, adjusted, refined and brought them to the market – with over a third of vineyards in New Zealand now using our products.
What are three things about your business that you are proud of?
- How we engage with our customers. We spend a lot of time talking to our customers to ensure we are developing tools that exceed expectations and help make their lives easier. They often can’t imagine going back to their old systems (or lack thereof) leading to very low rates of customer turnover.
- Although our team is small, I’m always impressed by how much we are able to get done. We all have pride in the areas of work we undertake and oversee, and maintain strong communication at all times, despite working from Auckland, Waihi and Christchurch.
- The products themselves. We set ourselves a high standard for building software that is intuitive and robust, and leads to better outcomes for our customers. Hearing consistently positive customer feedback (and hearty personal endorsements) for both Vure and Integrape confirms we are delivering on that promise which really makes the effort worthwhile. This focus on user experience can only be achieved with the first two points.
How do you market your business and what advice do you have for others around marketing?
We have found the most effective marketing tool is a satisfied customer, which is why we put a lot of energy into building strong relationships, and developing trust by delivering on value and quality.
The wine sector is high profile, but relatively small and deeply interconnected which can make it hard for newcomers to get a foot in the door. There is also a wide range geographically and in scale, from small boutique wineries with less than 20 hectares from Northland to Otago, right up to multinationals with over 2,000 hectares spread across multiple wine regions.
Initially we reached out directly to growers, either known contacts or cold calls and also attended trade shows. We also refreshed our website messaging with our ideal customers in mind.
Sometimes our R&D overlaps with scientific or industry aims which has seen us working with NZ Wine and Crown Research Institutes like Plant and Food Research on separate projects. As well as adding scientific rigour and expertise to our commercial focuses, they have allowed us to present at large industry events, which in turn helped to build the credibility of the Integrape brand.
But it was the support of key people in the industry, who believed in the product and shared their enthusiasm that really helped to grow our business. It’s great to now have reached the point where there is a lot of word of mouth – most web enquiries come from people who were recommended Vure or Integrape.
As we now look beyond New Zealand, refining and boosting our digital presence will have a lot more focus, as we aim to get our name out there and generate interest.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in building your business so far?
Integrape has benefited from developing key industry proponents of our products, who actively promote and endorse our brand to their networks. From providing demos through to actually arranging meetings for us, these warm introductions provide a familiarity and trust with our products and company before we even meet them.
However when looking to other markets, this goodwill is not easily transferable, and brand recognition takes a while to build up. For us this requires spending the time and effort to build relationships and finding the future cornerstone customers. At the same time this provides an opportunity for market research and understanding the different challenges faced specific to that region.
What is the biggest entrepreneur lesson you would like to share with other Kiwis thinking of starting their own business?
Founding a business requires tenacity and often an ability to fill many roles, some of which will come more naturally depending on your background or personality. Embrace this opportunity to learn and make the most of the support available, but also be prepared to delegate when it makes sense.
For us this meant business mentors, who may have already built successful businesses themselves, or had had experience working for large (or a range) of organisations as well as those involved in similar industries. Callaghan Innovation offers some useful resources and advice and we also paid for professional advice when warranted.
One of the key roles as a founder is to solicit advice from this diverse range of sources (often contradictory) and make the best decision based on the overall context of our business.
Whether it be within the Integrape team, our customers or our support network, the key for our business journey has been building and maintaining strong relationships.
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https://nzentrepreneur.co.nz/founder-qa-integrape/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=founder-qa-integrape Integrape – NZ Entrepreneur Magazine