Adroit, Qrious/Spark deliver IoT smarts to Bhana gardens

Spark has bought a 38 per cent share in environmental monitoring firm Adroit for an undisclosed sum.

It's the second score for Adroit CEO and co-founder Blair Stewart.

The Aucklander sold his last startup, cloud services reseller Digital Island, to Spark in 2018.

Adroit sells IoT (internet of things) devices that provide real-time monitoring in areas like aquaculture, horticulture and construction.

Its customers include Hira Bhana, whose 600ha in Pukekohe make it one of NZ's largest market gardeners. Adroit supplies Hira Bhana with soil monitoring gadgets that connect to Spark's IoT network, providing real-time information about where soil or fertiliser is needed.

Adroit also supplies water quality-testing "data buoys" for the Westpac Mussel Farm in the Firth of Thames.

All telcos see the IoT - or internet-connected gadgets, from car GPS systems to smart power meters to smart home gadgets to environmental monitoring systems - as a high-growth area.

Spark has seen rapid growth in IoT connections.

According to its latest annual report, the telco saw IoT connections grow 83 per cent to June 30, 2021. and the number of connections was over 450,000.

And at its interim results briefing last month, Spark said it ended the half with 623,000 connections, representing 31 per cent year-on-year connection growth.

The telco has yet to break out detailed financials for its IoT operation, however, making its margins hard to gauge.

In its half-year result, Spark lumped IoT into an "Other" category, along with Spark Sport and big data unit Qrious. Collectively, "Other" revenue was $61m vs $57m in the first half of last year.

Spark IoT lead Tony Agar says an existing partnership with Adroit will now be expanded.

"We've been partnering with Adroit for some time now and have already implemented IoT solutions for a range of customers," Agar said.

"We worked together to implement a real-time water quality monitoring solution for Mercury NZ's Waikato River catchment, and Adroit's IoT solutions for air and water quality and soil and weather monitoring feature in our Innovation Studio, which we launched last year."

Adroit has historically promoted its partnerships with both Spark and Vodafone.

Asked by the Herald if his outfit would continue to work with Vodafone, Stewart replied, "Yep, we're working with everyone. It's all about the growth of environmental IoT."

Stewart, who sold Digital Island to Spark for what the Herald understands was around $20m (in its financial reporting, Spark included it in a bundle of acquisitions totaling $51m), would not comment on the purchase price for Adroit. He and other managers and founders retain a majority of shares.

"It's enough so we can upscale the business over the next few months to meet demand."

Proceeds from the deal would go to new hires, new facilities and product development.

Adroit currently has 14 staff, with Stewart looking to hire four more as soon as possible.

Credit: NZHerald

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