It’s now thirty years since MEA was founded in 1984.
Instead of a mature business on our hands, Joe and I find ourselves with a ‘start-up’ instead.
How did this happen?
The problem is – as always in business – staying relevant.
MEA is now a company that has outlived the average business age of fifteen years by a factor of two.
But we’ve also outlived our original technology base – data loggers – that we grew up with. Data loggers have become an anachronism since the rise of the Internet; the job these days is not to process and store data on-site for later collection, but to immediately ship it offsite to the massive storage elements ‘in the cloud’.
Back in 1984, when data loggers and desktop computers were newly invented and only just starting to edge out paper chart recorders, there was no internet, wireless telemetry, smart phones, colour printing or mass data storage technologies. Data logging was the new environmental measurement frontier.
In 2014, the rate of technological change is accelerating, though the need for environmental measurements remains constant and just as challenging.
It would be fun to sit back comfortably, count the cash and wax nostalgic about all the measurement systems and gadgetry MEA has built over that 30 year period, but there is simply no rest to be had.
Were we to now rest on our laurels, the business would slow down and grind to a halt, then simply disappear.
So Joe and I have re-invested all of the company’s retained earnings and shifted up a gear to switch our business model from that of a custom measurement engineering firm to that of a manufacturer.
This is hard stuff; folk don’t like change, no matter how inevitable it might be. It’s also risky. We need new skills. We have to be in front of competitors and multinational corporations and beat the heck out of them from down-under in Australia.
Fortunately, the lessons and understandings of thirty years are still with us, as are our staff. We know this stuff inside out. We have developed the intellectual property and technology base.
The very best technology is indistinguishable from magic.
There’s a glimmering of such magic appearing down in the MEA basement, heralded by our Plexus sensor-radio platform that moves environmental data across the landscape and up to our Green Brain application in the cloud, from whence it can be retrieved by farmers and others at anytime from anywhere.
Field results from our three Thermex test sites are showing promise after a mere 25 years developing the technology to ‘get the plants to do the talking!’ Such sensors will ultimately displace earlier soil and climate-based surrogates for advising farmers ‘when to water’. More change!
But we did throw a 30th birthday party for MEA staff and opened the MEA museum where all the other old relics reside. Some of that gadgetry looks pretty dated.
Now we just have to make sure that we don’t wind up looking that way ourselves.
Dr. Andrew Skinner
on 28 May 2014