Plus Group

The Plus Group of Companies offers a range of uniquely integrated horticultural solutions both domestically and internationally. Its core passion is the long-term sustainability of horticulture delivered to our valued clients through service excellence, experience and innovation.

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GroPlus

GroPlus provides a world class kiwifruit orchard management service that maximises grower returns and delivers to our customers’ service excellence, product superiority and innovation.

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Pollen Plus

Pollen Plus is one of the world's largest suppliers of high quality Male Kiwifruit Pollen and artificial pollination services and solutions. Our products are available internationally and New Zealand wide.

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BioSoil

BioSoil & Crop specialises in sampling and analysing soil and tissues of perennial crop plants and making nutrient recommendations based on these results.

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Our People

The growing team behind Robotics Plus is comprised of a diverse group of educated, experienced and motivated people.

Dr Alistair Scarfe

Dr Alistair Scarfe (PhD, BE Hons)
CTO, Director, Owner

Dr Alistair Scarfe (PhD, BE) earned a PhD in Industrial Automation after completing a Bachelor of Engineering, majoring in Mechatronics with First Class Honours, both from Massey University.  Alistair has eight years’ experience developing horticultural robotics and his work was validated during the PhD assessment process. The prototype autonomous kiwifruit harvester was the subject matter of his thesis. As RPL’s Chief Technical Officer and company director, Alistair is responsible for overseeing the execution of all RPL’s projects. He was a finalist for NZ Hi-Tech Young Achiever of the Year 2012 and won the Tauranga 2011 Rocket Young Innovator of the Year (under 40). Alistair is the first scholar to receive the Dick and Mary Earle Scholarship in Technology for three consecutive years and was awarded a ZESPRI Innovation Fellowship.

Steven Saunders

Steven Saunders
Owner and Board Chairman of RPL and the Plus Group

Owner and Board Chairman of RPL and the Plus Group of Companies (www.plusgroup.co.nz). Steve has over 28 years of experience and expertise in the New Zealand horticulture industry across the following disciplines: growing, management, financial management, innovation, new product to market, postharvest ownership, international experience in the export of horticultural products (including pollen and pollen application systems), project management and JV partnerships. As an active angel investor, has been appointed director of numerous other emerging start-ups and holds key board positions with Priority One, Enterprise Angels, Icehouse and recent Crown appointment to Landcare Research.  Steve is also a shareholder and director for Newnham Park Innovation Centre, the home of many award-winning innovation-focused companies. 

Dr Bram Smith

Dr Bram Smith (PhD, BE Hons)
COO

Bram is a business leader and engineer with 17 years experience working in high-tech innovation and start-ups. His career has centred on leveraging cutting edge science to create commercial opportunities and drive business innovation. As COO, he is responsible for business operations and developing the commercial strategy for taking Robotics Plus technologies and expertise to market. Prior to working at Robotics Plus, Bram was the founding General Manager of the Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet), which invested over $13m into high-tech commercial ventures out of universities and public research organisations. He has a history of involvement in start-up ventures including starting his own company developing engine tuning software, and helping to start a biomedical equipment start-up company from Aalborg University in Denmark. Bram holds a Bachelor of Engineering and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, both from the University of Canterbury.

Dr Mark Jones

Dr Mark H. Jones (PhD, ME, BSc.)
Research & Development Officer

Mark joined the team in 2015 as a robotics development engineer. His previous research involved computer modelling of medical implant electrodes, high frequency RF power meters and electro-fishing boats. Since then, he has been heavily involved with the development of the AMMP - an agricultural robotics platform. His experience in programming, system architecture and electronic & mechanical design play a key role in this project. Mark has developed interests in machine vision and neural networking that keep him up-to-date with the latest sensing and processing technologies. He enjoys the start-up culture of Robotics Plus and the intensive development processes required to create high-performance industrial robotic systems.

Kyle Peterson

Kyle Peterson (BE Hons)
Research & Development Engineer

Kyle Peterson (BE) has a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours, majoring in Mechatronics. He was one of the primary developers of the first generation apple packing robots and has been an integral team member since concept design. Kyle brings a significant amount of experience from operating the original prototype apple packing robots in the packhouse. He provides an in-depth understanding of the customer’s operational requirements and related systems. Kyle provides complementary skill sets with his main areas focusing on custom embedded electronic controllers and machine vision systems.

Florian Roeske

Florian Roeske (M.Sc., Dipl.-Ing (FH))
Research & Development Engineer

Florian earned a Master's with distinction in Information Technology from the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics at the German Aerospace Center and has a Graduate Engineering Degree (Dipl.-Ing (FH)) in Computer Engineering. Florian brings 3 years software development expertise in enterprise networks and also has systems engineering experience with real-time applications for surgical robotics and computer vision applications.

Luke Dwyer

Luke Dwyer (BE Hons)
Research & Development Engineer

Luke joined the team as a new graduate after completing a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours majoring in Mechatronics from Massey University. Luke has experience developing industrial electronic control systems and brings a well-rounded knowledge base and skill sets to the team. He is an integral member across all areas of development, ranging from design to fabrication across mechanical, electronics and control.

Matthew Sutherland

Matthew Sutherland (BE Hons)
Research & Development Engineer

Matthew majored in Mechatronics at Massey University before joining the Robotics Plus team. He initially joined for work experience and stayed on as a full employee once he completed his degree. He has a keen interest in robotics and brings technical skills to aid in the design and manufacture of machines. He works in the robotic apple packer R&D team and is currently responsible for assembly and maintenance of the packers.

Erin Sims

Erin Sims (BE Hons)
Masters Student

Erin has a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours majoring in Mechanical Engineering. For her fourth-year project, Erin worked on a robotic apple harvester prototype with Robotics Plus. She is currently working towards her Masters in Mechanical Engineering specialising in robotic mechanical design and fabrication.

Hamish Carter

Hamish Carter (BE Hons)
Masters Student

Hamish began at Robotics Plus as a summer intern after completing the 3rd year of his Bachelor of Engineering majoring in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Waikato. He has since finished in 2016 and is now studying towards a Masters in Engineering. Hamish has previously worked in landscaping and heavy transport industries giving him a well-rounded skill set which he is building on at Robotics Plus.

Henri Bardoul

Henri Bardoul (BE Hons)
Masters Student

Henri began working for Robotics Plus in 2017 after completing a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours majoring in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Waikato. He is currently studying towards his Masters while gaining experience with mechanical design and fabrication on projects within the company. Outside of work he enjoys road cycling, mountain biking, hunting and water skiing.

Josh Barnett

Josh Barnett (BE Hons)
PhD Candidate

Josh is a mechanical engineer and PhD candidate based at Robotics Plus to develop hardware on the MBIE orchard robotics project. Josh has a BE (Hons) from the University of Waikato. He has industry experience in production engineering and manufacturing, machine design, and practical skills from working as an engineer prior to tertiary education. Josh has suspect welding skills but is a brilliant fisherman.

Matthew Seabright

Matthew Seabright (BE Hons)
PhD Candidate

Matthew is a PhD student from the University of Waikato and based at Robotics Plus. He specialises in electronics and control systems development. He is currently responsible for designing and building the electronics that integrate the robotic arms and machine vision cameras for the harvesting platform.