After years of muddling through old and clunky systems, Tim Bates—along with his colleagues Steve Giudici and Jeremy Wilson—finally bit the bullet and conceived a fresh, simple and innovative software, which he believes revolutionises professional forestry asset management.
The trio who jointly own and manage Esk Mapping & GIS, this year launched SPARQS – a cloud-based next generation system which utilises open-source technologies, is feature rich, and is accessible everywhere.
SPARQS is a contemporary resurrection of a much loved and battle proven 1990s ArcView plugin that provides rapid planning, mapping and operational decision-making tools, without having extensive GIS knowledge.
The team set out to achieve a simple, clean and intuitive user experience, that is cloud based and offers speed and flexibility across devices in a modular design which can be enhanced and customised.
“SPARQS was created to address a fundamental gap in the natural resources market: simple and effective management of resource information,” Tim said.
“It was designed to be flexible to the complexities of the forest industry and any forest management company. We are committed to working with clients to customise SPARQS so they can get maximum benefit from the system.”
No stranger to the industry, Tim has more than 25 years’ experience in field survey, special data management and operations management spanning the forest sector, agriculture and water.
However, he said it was Steve who originally introduced him to Geographic Information Systems back in 1999 when he was a graduate at North Forest Products.
“I was actually trained in the original SPARQS system, which Steve and Jeremy build and maintained out of necessity for the foresters back in the early days of GIS” Tim said.
A decade later, amid the collapse of managed investment schemes, Steve and Tim decided to join forces and establish Esk Mapping & GIS, with Jeremy joining the business a short time later. Twelve years on, the three men and their team of 20 ‘Eskies’ are committed as ever to creating solutions that enable more efficiency and accuracy in asset management.
So what makes SPARQS better than anything else on the market?
“How long have you got?” Tim jokes.
“In a nutshell, SPARQS is easier, faster and better connected,” he said.
“The internet was obviously a game-changer for the entire world, and then along came connected devices. Stand record and operational mapping systems have been too slow to respond. There are really only two established options out there, but both are old, slow and rely on additional, very expensive mapping software – they are expensive to purchase and customise and complicated to maintain.
“A key feature of SPARQS is that mapping is included as a core feature. Every other option requires additional third-party GIS software licencing and development to get close to doing what we know forestry companies need – and we have grand plans for future modules!”
The new system has taken around 18-months in development, but Tim says a true SaaS (Software as a Service) product is never ‘complete’.
“SPARQS is no different, it will continue to evolve to meet client needs over time.”
Tim said the biggest challenge many companies face when developing new products is funding, and acknowledges they’ve done it the hard way to date.
“It is a challenge to crack a market such as commercial forestry, even when there is a chorus of discontent about the known deficiencies of the established options,” he said.
“Humans are creatures of habit and this is why we are so thankful for our early-adopters and Beta partners who have shown faith and invested in the solution which will revolutionise business intelligence for them.”
Tim said their decision is already paying dividends for them – a sentiment shared by user Simon Gatt, Resource Manager at AKD Softwoods.
“The team at Esk have supported AKD Softwoods for many years, so when we heard of a new development in a cloud-based platform that would give our staff accessibility and portability of our geospatial data, we jumped at the opportunity to be involved as an early adopter of SPARQS,” Simon said.
“Our staff feel as if they have been part of the SPARQS journey. We have enjoyed the interaction and open discussion which has ensured SPARQS meets our needs.”
“We are excited to be involved in the shaping of future refinements in the SPARQS platform.”
SPARQS has also garnered international attention, recently winning the Innovation Award at the 2022 Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards for Tasmania and will contest against innovation in other states at the National APSEA Awards in early 2023.
Tim, Steve and Jeremy are keen to share SPARQS with the industry locally and nationally and encourage businesses to get in touch to learn more.
SPARQS is also seeking seed funding.
“Investing in SPARQS is actually an investment in getting the product you need for your business to launch into the future,” said Tim.
You can learn more about SPARQS at www.sparqs.com.au