Hooking up mainland farms to the 21st century

Hooking up mainland farms to the 21st century

Glen Perkins of Southern IT in Gore is helping Otago farmers go wireless.

Perkins started the business in 2009, which in addition to supplying broadband to farmers via Farmside, also offers the usual range of IT equipment for sale and IT repairs.

He was born in Gore and grew up on his parents’ dairy farm at nearby Edendale. When he was 16, his parents moved to Gore to run a bed and breakfast.

At Menzies College, Perkins became interested in computers and electronics. In 2003, this led to a work placement with an Invercargill firm, and after a week, to a job and certified training courses.

“I spent five years with corporate networks, dairy automation and schools. I became involved in Novell networks and completed training courses in this area. I also worked in Wyndham for the local electronics firm for two years where I was involved with data monitoring, and then I moved on to start my own business in Gore at the end of 2009,” he says.

Southern IT’s main target market is schools and businesses around eastern Southland, although it has clients in Garston, Lumsden, Invercargill and the Catlins. For Farmside, the company also covers all of Southland, offering short and long-range wireless broadband installation and repair.

He works full-time on the schools’ side of business, which covers 60-70 percent of Southern IT’s total work. Two part-timers also carry out website and repair work. The remaining 20 percent of work is for firms and home users make up the remaining 10 percent.

Remote access plays a vital role, with it often allowing instant responses to clients, or allowing for problems to be resolved in just one visit, where a visit is necessary.

Along with Wyndham Electrical, Southern IT once custom built data monitoring equipment that lets clients view temperatures in various locations inside and outside their buildings, and remotely manage heating and cooling systems 24 hours a day. The company has built and installed similar systems with Wyndham Electronics for local businesses and though only a small part of operations, this is something Perkins is keen to expand on.

The Southlander says having a business in Gore is “fantastic” due to the people there and becoming involved in many community activities. Currently, Southern IT has just has a workshop on a busy road in Gore, but it is looking to create shop frontage. Nearby street signs advertising the business have helped significantly and along with its website presence, these are the company’s only current forms of advertising.

“The local market in eastern Southland is very strong and certainly keeps us busy. We have a strong backing from schools and as more dairy farmers get involved with technology in dairy sheds, it has a flow on effect with servicing and updates. Clients are more involved with technology in their business and we have several enquiries a week regarding websites,” he says.

The only downside to business in Gore is travelling to rural clients but remote access helps.

Getting in supplies is easy, with overnight delivery from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch being typical.

Perkins says most people nowadays are asking for wireless, not just at home but also connecting laptops through dairy sheds or nearby buildings.

“Last year was great for picking up many new clients and growing the business substantially,” he says.

Business in 2011 started off “stronger than ever”. When not busy with work the active sportsman says it is a struggle to fit in activities but he manages it.

“Playing competitive basketball and social netball throughout the week after being stuck in the office all day is a great way to be able to run around and burn off some energy. I am also a member of the local basketball organisation committee, and am keen on watersports; spending weekends at the lakes water skiing and wakeboarding when I can find the time,” he adds.

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