The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)’s Impact Investment Fund has made its first-ever investment in Robotics Plus, a firm that uses automation to improve the well-being of workers in dangerous industries.
The Tauranga-based firm develops technology to keep forestry, agriculture, and transport workers safe. It has created a robotic scaling machine (RSM) that can quickly and accurately measure the volume of timber on logging trucks, removing the need for a dangerous task that has led to accidents at ports, forestry sites and sawmills.
The national accident insurer said the investment in Robotics Plus, which is within the range of $2 million and $15 million, meets two of the objectives of the Impact Fund: to improve the health, safety, and wellbeing of New Zealanders; and to provide a strong investment return that helps Kiwis pay less in levies for accident cover. The fund, which was launched in September 2020, is the first of its kind in the market.
Lumber is New Zealand’s third-largest export at $4.5 billion in 2020. However, the logging industry has also caused many workplace injuries, with around 17,000 active claims that cost a total of $75 million last year, ACC data showed.
Robotics Plus’ innovation has helped to reduce the risks that lumber workers are exposed to in the workplace. Ever since ISO Limited, a Mt Maunganui-based port logistics company, installed 11 RSMs at its sites, the firm has recorded zero injuries and fatalities in log scaling. The technology also freed up the workers that used to do this task manually, allowing them to be moved to higher-skilled positions.
Other Robotics Plus projects include robotic fruit packers that reduce the musculoskeletal strains and injuries associated with repetitive manual tasks, as well as robots capable of a variety of tasks in horticulture.
“We're excited to partner with Robotics Plus to take this innovative Kiwi technology to the rest of the world,” said ACC head of private markets Martin Goldfinch.
“This investment was a perfect fit with our goal to ensure Kiwis stay healthy and safe while contributing to a financially sustainable scheme for the benefit of all New Zealanders. That’s the impact we want to make – combining ACC’s established expertise in injury prevention with its proven skill in investment management.”
Robotics Plus co-founder and CEO, Steve Saunders, added: “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.”