OnSide – new Health & Safety app for farmers

Ryan Higgs

Synlait founder and former Purata CEO Juliet Maclean has teamed up with two former colleagues to create New Zealand’s first technology-based health & safety system for farmers.

OnSide will launch shortly after the new Health and Safety at Work Act comes into effect next April.

OnSide CEO and co-founder is Ryan Higgs, formerly Purata’s Innovation Manager and a Fullbright Scholar with a PHD in Animal Science.

The company’s third co-founder is Michael Falconer, previously an investment banker and advisor to Synlait during its restructuring and capital raising, alongside senior management experience with Carter Holt Harvey and leadership of health and safety in the challenging forestry sector.

OnSide will fill a gap that exists for farmers looking for a practical tool to help them manage their health and safety requirements, says Ryan Higgs.

“There is no other online system like this for the rural community to manage their health and safety needs. Other apps and systems have been tweaked from different industries. The difference with OnSide is that it has been built by farmers for farmers.”

“Our objective is to capture the key elements of a safety plan to help farmers from April 2016 when scrutiny around health and safety compliance is going to ramp up,” says Mr Higgs.

The OnSide system is well progressed with tech partners Jade Software and testing with farmer focus groups will begin in February, with a view to having OnSide ready for launch in the second quarter of 2016.


The trio have consulted hundreds of farmers and rural industry stakeholders over the past four months to make sure they are on the right track.

“We discovered that there’s a genuine need from the rural community and the system is a practical and cost effective solution. People told us that they want something easy to use and they want a tool developed especially for agriculture. The three of us have worked in farming or have family members still farming and we understand the unique challenges managing health and safety on farms. Risks keep changing because of the weather and seasonal activities and there’s also the challenge of managing a large scale work-place which overlaps with where farmers live.”

One of the things that also became obvious during research this year was that a focus solely on compliance wouldn’t deliver the best results, says Mr Higgs.

“Farmers have told us they want to show leadership in health and safety and do the right thing, but the tools to do this have not actually been available. So it’s become a compliance and administrative burden for them. This doesn’t actually achieve what we all want which is to keep people safe on farms. OnSide will focus on showing the value of health and safety in terms of productivity through reduced paperwork and down-time and from minimising incidents,” says Mr Higgs.

Farmers will subscribe to OnSide which will make it easy for them to develop their own health and safety plan by working through a pre-populated list of risks overlaid on a satellite map of the farm property. Contractors and visitors will be prompted to sign in on a smart phone when they cross a virtual ‘geo-fence’ onto the farm. They will have access to the risks and will be requested to review and acknowledge these risks before signing in. Risks can be updated by the farmer in real time and visitors will need to sign out when they leave. All information will be stored in the cloud avoiding the need for mountains of paperwork.

Mr Higgs says it’s been an exciting few months getting feedback from farmers and the rural community and working with the Jade team to build the software. Ryan and co-founders Juliet Maclean and Michael Falconer are looking forward to OnSide being ready for testing in the New Year.

“We have made a significant investment in developing the OnSide system, and we will keep investing as we see huge potential for OnSide’s application in other parts of the world. We are not health and safety consultants, but we do know what works for farmers. For us, this is about helping farmers to keep their employees, visitors, families and themselves safe,” says OnSide CEO Ryan Higgs.

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Posted by Ryan Higgs

Ryan has a science and farming background and has held various innovation roles in the dairy sector. Ryan’s interest is in developing a practical tool that makes rural health and safety management easy.

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