This article was published on 12 May 2021
Callaghan Innovation is proud to sponsor once again the NZ Hi-Tech Kamupene Māori o te Tau – Māori Company of the Year award. Ahead of the awards announcements on 28 May, we’re checking in with the five finalists – AgriSea, Jobloads, NZ Trade Group, MB Century and Weirdly – to find out how they’re making their mark as Māori innovators.
When entrepreneur Candice Pardy bought an orchard in Gisborne four years ago she experienced first-hand the difficulties growers face sourcing good, reliable labour.
But the experience also gave her insight into the pain points of horticultural workers – exploitative labour practices, for example, and lack of transport – that lay at the root of many labour supply problems.
“I could see people just weren’t being respected and treated right,” says the founder and CEO of Jobloads. “When I started digging into it, all people really wanted was to feel seen and valued.”
A belief that there’s dignity in every job is central to Jobloads – the digital hiring platform that Pardy and her team have developed to connect seasonal workers with horticultural employers.
Workers, or ‘Jobstars’, go through a screening process to join the platform, which includes identifying any barriers, such as a lack of transport, which might inhibit their ability to work, and offers support. It’s free for workers to join, and once they’re in the system, their information – such as contact and tax details – are logged, so they’re not constantly having to fill out new paperwork.
Jobloads also streamlines the hiring process, giving growers access to a pool of pre-screened, work-ready candidates.
The time has come
Labour supply is a major problem in the horticultural industry, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19.
“For years the industry has relied heavily on transitory labour, and there’s a huge shortage of workers right now because of travel restrictions and limited migration,” says Pardy.
“So for Jobloads it’s been great in terms of timing because we’re trying to lift up our local workforce to fill these roles, but there’s also a large offshore market we can enter due to a shortage of agricultural workers globally.”
A first, ‘lite’ iteration of Jobloads launched in NZ in January 2021, and exceeded its target to sign up 1,000 workers in its first 90 days by 50%. Many large corporate growers have now signed up to the platform, which has assigned more than a million hours of work.
Jobloads has its origins at a Startup Weekend in Gisborne in 2019, where Pardy pitched the concept and ultimately won the competition.
Initially the app focused on connecting workers with transport options, but when COVID-19 hit (making a rideshare focus untenable due to social distancing), Pardy pivoted to develop a labour supply platform.
Pardy says being named a finalist in the Hi-Tech Kamupene Māori o te Tau award, while currently raising $2 million in investment, led by Icehouse Ventures, has been welcome validation for the Jobloads team.
“I’ve been doing this for two years and it’s been a hard slog. As a Māori female founder, especially based in the regions, there are no role models. People didn’t see me as a founder of a tech company,” she says.
“But using technology to restore balance was always my goal. That really relates to our te ao Māori values – promoting things like mana, or dignity; and tika, or doing the correct thing – which are central to us as a Māori company.”
“I’m a businesswoman, and I’m here to make money, but I feel we can create impact and lift people up at the same time.”