IFS Growth forestry management company managing director
Dan Minehan (left) and asset information manager Todd
Redpath with an individual spot tracking device used by
staff working in forests. Photo by Allison Beckham.
An Invercargill-based forestry management company has
taken a device marketed for outdoor recreationalists and
adapted it as a safety tool for staff and contractors.
Over the past six months, IFS Growth has successfully
trialled 10 spot trackers - electronic devices that allow
their wearers to send pre-loaded text or email messages to
selected cellphones or computers. It plans to buy another 20
over the next year.
The devices have four buttons - SOS, help, OK and tracking -
the latter enabling the location of the device to be tracked
every 10 minutes.
IFS Growth managing director Dan Minehan said at about $300
each, and operational via satellite in areas without
cellphone coverage, the devices were a cost-effective and
reliable safety tool.
''They add another level of comfort for our people who are
often working in remote areas. We send guys into the forest
every day and we need to make sure they come home again.''
Company asset information manager Todd Redpath, a keen
outdoors man, saw the United States-made devices for sale in
an Invercargill sporting goods shop last year and immediately
realised their potential for forestry staff.
Mr Minehan, an offshore fisherman on his days off, bought one
for himself and was sold.
''When I am out at sea it is comforting for my wife to know
where I am, or at least where I was when the most recent
location check was made.''
He said he used the OK button during the day, sending a text
message to his wife's cellphone.
Mr Redpath said a lot of work was needed ''at the back end''
to adapt the messaging and tracking capabilities of the
devices for a commercial setting.
IFS Growth's system enables the location of all devices to be
logged in real time on to a map displayed on a website.
Messages sent from individual devices are also logged on the
IFS Growth manages about 15,000ha of forest in Otago and
Southland for small forestry owners such as local authorities
and farm foresters. It also manages small pockets of forest
in the North Island.
Mr Minehan said staff and contractors issued with the trial
devices were initially concerned they would be used to check
up on their whereabouts and productivity, but quickly
embraced the technology.
When staff left the forest at the end of the day, they were
supposed to send an OK message. Mr Minehan said there had
been one false alarm during the trial when no message was
''It turned out the person forgot. But it was good to know
that within a very short time we realised he had not checked
in and were able to start looking for him.''
Mr Redpath believed IFS Growth was the only South Island
company using the devices and he knew of only one other
company doing so in the North Island.
He predicted the devices would be commonplace in many
''It will become the norm ... for anyone working in the field
''Think of a farmer who has an accident on a quad bike. If
they could reach down and push the SOS or help button,
someone would know they were in trouble and could pinpoint
By Allison Beckham.