The Fry Up: Agritech report, Political app, Florence and the WHO, COVID tracing

Friday Fry Up is Computerworld New Zealand’s weekly look at the world of IT.

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Shocking invention has staying power

You would expect agritech to be a big deal in New Zealand, but a recent comment from a local VC that he’d never seen any really big companies emerge from this space, had Fry Up nodding in agreement.

So, when the notice that TIN (Technology Investment Network) had released its agritech report popped into the inbox, we quickly downloaded a copy to take a look, and there it was: Gallagher Group. Inventor of the electric fence. The company is top of the list with revenue of $217 million in 2019, placing it at No. 5 in the overall TIN200 list. Founded in the 1930s by William Gallagher Sr., who got the idea when he used a live wire to stop his horse Joe from getting too close to his car, the company has since added security and fuel systems to its animal management offering.

The TIN report, which is based on data from the TIN200 2019 survey, was released at Fieldays — driven online this year by COVID-19. Website issues experienced in the first couple of hours of going live, were cheerfully reported in the Fieldays newsletter the next day. “Our launch wasn’t without its hurdles, much like the first-ever Fieldays event in 1969 with its infamous plane crash,” it noted, accompanied by a photo of what looked like a small plane splayed on top of a fertiliser spreading truck.

Read more: Launch of New Zealand Agritech Insights Report

Politics is boring, policies not so much

The past two weeks have provided plenty of political twists and turns in New Zealand, so it was with some surprise that Fry Up was informed by a newly minted voter that she was so bored by politics that she and a friend had to invent an app to get excited about it.

Epsom Girls Grammar students Drishti Murara and Anjali Mistry called their team ‘Almost Vegan’ and created Eunomia, a mobile game designed to teach 18- to 24-year-olds about politics. They’ve just made the finals of a US-based competition called Technovation, only one of ten finalists chosen from more than 1,500 mobile apps submitted by 5,400 students from 62 countries in the competition this year.

Eunomia users decide how to spend public money and based on what they select the app recommends the party whose ideas most align with the choices they make. Refreshing to see that its policies, rather than personalities, that matter to the new generation of voters.

Watch the demo video. Then read more: Benefits of backing girls in tech: NZ team scores in Technovation 

Florence travels the globe to save the world

The borders may be closed to real-life humans, but virtual ones appear at liberty to roam the world. Soul Machines cranked up the, well, PR machine, this week to let us know that no less than the World Health Organisation (WHO) is the latest to acquire its digital communications technology.

‘Florence’, which was created using Soul Machines technology and WHO technical guidance, with support from Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, will provide information on COVID-19, with specific reference smoking and its consequences.

Which is actually pretty fabulous. In this video, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus introduces Florence at the start of the media briefing.

Soul Machines, by the way, currently ranks at 154 on the TIN200 list, with annual revenue in 2019 of $9.9 million. It is described as a “core AI research company building the world’s first digital brain and autonomous animation platform.”

COVID tracking just not a thing

It was such a surprise to see a NZ Covid-19 Tracer App code on the wall of a local store the other day that Fry Up took a photo. Here it is in case you haven’t seen one for a while.

nz covid tracing app qr code poster Sarah Putt/IDG

The New Zealand government’s poster encouraging downloads of its COVID-19 tracing app. So far, few have bothered.

In retrospect, it would have been more responsible to scan rather than click, but if we had we would have been in the absolute minority. Uptake of the app is just over 600,000 and the government is telling businesses to put up the poster and people to download the app. New Zealand is not alone in citizen indifference to tracking — countries all around the world are trying, and failing, with contact tracing technology.

Read more: Why the UK NHS contact tracing app failed
Read more: Why Coronavirus contact tracing apps are failing

Friday Fry Up is Computerworld New Zealand’s weekly look at the world of IT. If you have any story ideas, please email

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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