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Innovating IP: Bluelab's Journey in Agriculture

Innovating IP: Bluelab's Journey in Agriculture

Innovating IP: Bluelab's Journey in Agriculture

Monday 29 April, 2024

Bluelab CEO Website 2


Over the weekend was World Intellectual Property Day. This year's theme related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (of which there are 17) and how intellectual property can encourage and amplify innovative solutions that are crucial to building a better future for all of us.

One of our clients, Bluelab, with its vision of a healthier world, is doing all it can to develop products to help growers become more efficient, productive, and profitable in the face of the future resource challenges the world is facing. Operating for 30 years, Bluelab is the industry standard for high-precision measurement technology for growers. Their innovative products measure, monitor, control and automate the fundamental parameters of growing success in controlled environment agriculture (CEA).

As part of World Intellectual Property Day, Tompkins Wake wanted to highlight the great work Bluelab is doing and how, through its intellectual property and innovative technology, it is contributing to building a better future by developing products that will address unsustainable agricultural practices and broken food systems.

In this Q&A, Jono highlights the company's journey, the importance of intellectual property, and their commitment to sustainable agriculture, which not only helps shape the future of farming but also ensures that Bluelab remains at the cutting edge of the industry.

Bluelab has been at the forefront of technology for growers for over three decades. How has the company evolved, and what key lessons have 
been learned along the way? 

We've evolved significantly but iteratively over time. The core business started as a turn-key solution provider for greenhouse growers in New Zealand.

Then, it evolved to focus on hardware products and technology for measuring, monitoring, and controlling key plant growth parameters in controlled environment agriculture (CEA). We're now developing hardware and software to help the most committed cultivators in the pursuit of the art of growing. Our channels to market have evolved from distribution to an omnichannel business model through retailers, online marketplaces, and e-commerce, and we've expanded our footprint significantly to reflect our global ambition and the growth of the CEA industry. We now have team members across the US, Canada, Mexico, the UK, India, and Malaysia, and we export 98% of our sales into many export markets. We talk a lot at Bluelab about the need to be adaptable; to adapt to a changing industry, market and customer while riding technology and economic shifts. 

Evolution is an iterative process that requires constant re-thinking and re-learning but also action - we talk about it as 'Think big, start small, start today'. The other is trust - trust is key to sustainable success. We're very fortunate to have a very loyal customer base but we've have to earn that trust by delivering and supporting great products and imparting knowledge to help growers be successful.

How important is protecting IP in this industry and for the growth of the business? 

Protecting our brand identity, which has been built over many years, has been key for Bluelab. This has been particularly important as we've expanded into new regions, and we're leveraging our success in core markets for new growth. The 'Truncheon Meter' for example is one of our oldest and most loved products all over the world. Because of its tenure and reputation as a tool of choice for growers, it's become the equivalent of 'Sellotape' or 'Hoover' in its category as the generic name for that style of nutrient meter. The 'Truncheon' name (and trade mark) is sometimes used to describe competitor products of a similar format, and although we're flattered by copies and mimics it can create confusion with customers as they seek out the original and best. This is a good example of when we have to lean on our registered trademarks to ensure retailers are correctly using the product brand. 

How does the company approach IP management and innovation to maintain its competitive edge in the market? 

A significant part of our IP portfolio is our registered trademarks in key markets at a company and product level - this protects the brand equity that we've built over decades. We also register distinctive product forms through design patents that protect unique design features that are meaningful to our grower customers. We consider innovation holistically at Bluelab. We have opportunities to innovate and create impact in areas beyond just our products, such as business models, processes, customer engagement and channels. This way, all the teams can contribute and be part of the innovation effort. 

How important is 
it for Bluelab to develop sustainable solutions in the agricultural industry?

Grower Bluelab3

We believe that by making CEA growing more accessible to more people, we can help these growers produce crops in ways that are low-impact, abundant and sustainable. We focus on providing the solutions to enable growers to efficiently manage one of the world's most precious resources - water. Today, agriculture uses 70% of global water withdrawals. Growing in controlled environments can use between 10 to 100 times less water for the same output as open-field agriculture, and it's our role to make that more accessible to more people. 

What milestone or initiative are you most proud of being involved in?

So many! Taking new products to market is always exciting, especially when we know we're delighting customers. I'm proud of the recent product developments and upcoming new releases that further our product vision of a connected ecosystem of hardware and software to help growers achieve new possibilities.


If you have any questions about intellectual property or need guidance on where to begin, please feel free to reach out to one of our IP experts listed below.

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