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‘Shocked, humbled’: Māori tech company wins NZ and international awards on same night

Māori tech success is being celebrated in Aotearoa and across the Asia-Pacific region this weekend.

A pioneering company specialising in drone technology and an inspiring tech leader have both received industry acclaim at the New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards in Tāmaki Makaurau on Friday evening, while the newly minted 2024 Hi-Tech Māori Company of the Year has also taken out a coveted award in the Philippines.

Tauranga-based Envico Technologies and Te Ao Matihiko chair Elle Archer (Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Tūhoe) are the toast of the Māori tech community after their awards success at Spark Arena last night, with a record 1300 industry figures and supporters in attendance.

Envico Technologies

“Shocked and humbled” is how Envico Technologies CEO and co-founder Cameron Baker (Te Rarawa, Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu) described the company’s recognition as Hi-Tech Kamupene Māori o te Tau.

“Really excited for our team as well. I think it’s a lot of recognition for the hard work that they’ve been putting into the company and the outcomes that we’ve been able to achieve.

“So yeah, I’m really, really happy.”

The company is pioneering specialist drones and automated systems for conservation and biosecurity, including the use of drone technology to distribute seed planting and pest control to protect native species.

A “village” has been responsible for their success, says Baker.

“Poutama Trust, Callaghan Innovation, NZTE [New Zealand Trade and Enterprise], those groups have been with us since we first started up the company. It’s a wide family, a wide village of support outside of our own core team.”

Friday was a “very fun night”, says Baker, as the company also won a second award in the Philippines, which is among the world’s most prestigious business awards.

“We had another two of our crew over in Manila because we also won a gold Stevie Award for project of the year under the biodiversity category.”

Although the company’s had this success, Baker modestly describes himself as just, “100% an ordinary guy”.

“I’m a regular guy that had an opportunity presented. And that opportunity unlocks the ability for me to drive a passion. And my passion has always been to see kiwi in our backyard.

“I found out an interesting statistic. We’re known for how many sheep we have, but we have more possums in the country than we do sheep, and they’re a pest animal that prey on our kiwi. So my passion is actually to see kiwi in our backyard. I know how big that task actually is.”

Baker attributes much of the company’s success, particularly internationally, to the fact that they are fundamentally a Māori company - an attribute that especially appeals to the world’s indigenous communities, he says.

“The opportunities that we’ve been given overseas, the reason why we’ve been so successful, is because Māori are great communicators and they’re passionate.

“What our [Māori] values are here in New Zealand are represented all over the world. We’re helping indigenous communities that have the exact same challenges as we do, the exact same value set as what we have.

“So it’s really easy to communicate what good could potentially look like and what the opportunities to collaborate are. Whereas in some cases, you could go over and say ‘this is how you should do it’ and not get the buy-in.

“Being able to take a Māori core set of values overseas has been a huge enabler for us. Everybody wants the same outcome, everybody wants biodiversity gain, everybody wants to protect their native species or their taonga.

“Fortunately, we’ve been doing it for a very, very long time here in New Zealand. And that’s an opportunity that we’ve been able to take overseas and people really resonate with it.”

Keen to see other Māori tech companies succeed, Baker says he’s happy to have them reach out to him for advice.

“I know Māori need to support each other in driving great ideas here and internationally, so I’m always happy to help people navigate the path of starting and getting business support here in New Zealand like we have.

“Please let anyone know they can contact me and I will help.”

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