Cafe Scientifique to discuss robotics technology in Tauranga

19 June, 2012

How is robotics technology changing the way we do business and how is it helping to future proof a labour-intensive industry? These are questions up for discussion at next week’s Cafe Scientifique – a six-weekly science forum in Tauranga supported by the University of Waikato.

Steven Saunders, Managing Director of Tauranga’s Plus Group Horticulture, will discuss his company’s focus on research and innovation to ensure the future sustainability of the horticultural industry. Rising costs, uncertain labour supply and a need to become more environmentally sustainable are pertinent issues which are being addressed through innovative research projects, such as a apple packer and kiwifruit picker.


Developed by Robotics Plus, one of the companies established by Mr Saunders and which operates under the Plus Group Horticulture banner, three apple packers are now under full commercial trial in a South Island packhouse. The kiwifruit picker is about to move into its next development phase. It uses radar and vision sensors to locate and pick fruit at a rate of around four pieces per second.

Steven has 28 years experience in the horticulture industry and has established several companies which form part of the Plus Group. Pollen Plus Ltd won the 2010 Bay of Plenty emerging exporter of the year award.


As global research into applications grows, so too has the robotics trend in schools. In April, three Otumoetai College students finished third equal in the 2012 VEX World Championship Robotics competition, held in the US. They were the only New Zealand team outside Auckland to have qualified for the competition, which involves more than 10,000 participants from middle school to university level from nearly 20 countries.

With their mentor and teacher Deon Wessels, Team Oats Vexmen – Seumas Beedie, Lucas de Rijk and Shane de Rijk – will also talk at next week’s Café Scientifique about the challenges they faced.


Café Scientifique is a forum for debating science issues, where for the price of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, anyone can come to explore the latest ideas in science and technology.

The Café Scientifique series is organised by Julia and Warren Banks and supported by the University of Waikato. It aims to promote public engagement and make science accessible.

It will be held on Monday 25 June, 6.45pm for 7.15pm start at Alimento, 72 First Avenue, Tauranga. For more information please visit: .

(Original article courtesy of