[VIDEO] These 3 Advancements Make Vegetation Mapping More Cost Efficient and Useful to Electric Utilities

folder_openEducation, News
commentNo Comments

These 3 Advancements Will Make Vegetation Mapping More Cost Efficient and Useful to Electric Utilities

Kaley Guhl


TEJ: Welcome to another episode of Trees and Lines. Today we chatted with Nigel Barry, the CEO of Intelfuse.  

Nigel has been a leader In the Australian vegetation management game for many years. Today he’s leading a Melbourne headquarter technology company focused on 3D data allowing utilities to optimize their risk management strategies.  

We had a very engaging chat. Have a listen.  

Nigel Barry and His Background in Vegetation Management  

TEJ: Nigel, welcome. Nigel Barry.  

NIGEL: Thanks, Tej.  

TEJ: I don’t know exactly how to Introduce you. I can introduce you as a winemaker, somebody who manages a cattle farm, the CEO of Intelfuse, an Australian vegetation expert. There’s a lot, you got a lot of titles.  

I know you and Phil have crossed paths in your respective vegetation management journeys as well.  

We’re going to spend the next thirty to forty minutes chatting with you and talking about what you’ve been up to. You’re doing some pretty interesting things, very innovative things on the software side.  

For our audience, again, Nigel Barry is the CEO of Intelfuse. He was also recently accepted into NextEra’s 35 Mule’s cohort. So, congratulations on that. He is really trying to penetrate the U.S. market and replace all vegetation human capital.  

NIGEL: Thanks, Tej. Yeah, we might as well hang up now.  

TEJ: Nigel, I don’t even know where we should start.  

PHIL: Well, you might start with that 35 Mule’s cohort because that probably means something to you two, but maybe not most of everyone else.  

TEJ: Yeah, we had a great dinner down in Jupiter, Florida. Nigel that’s what kind of brought you to the U.S. really. So, do you want to talk a little bit about that?


NIGEL: Sure. Well, thanks Tej and Phil for inviting me on. It’s a pleasure to be here. We’ll have to park the wine and the beef until later. That’s an after-work thing.

We’re very fortunate to have been invited into the Innovation Hub, which is called 35 Mules. They’ve brought us in on the premise of supporting our development in the American market. I’m assuming they must have seen something that we presented to them as being both interesting to the next era, but more interesting to the rest of the world in terms of what we could potentially bring to the table.  

So, they’re big thinkers. They’re supporters of innovation.  

It’s a pleasure to be here.  

TEJ: I think it’s good for our audience to hear this because there’s always been this perception of technology startups and companies. I think it’s important to note that Nigel was one of a handful of partners that ran a very successful integrated vegetation management company in Melbourne.  

You basically sold it, and then that led you to do some more advanced work on the digital side in the space.  

Is that sort of summing up your journey?  

NIGEL: To be honest, Tej, my journey goes back a bit further than that.  

I recall when I was 17 years old working on my parents’ farm and looking out the window and seeing the smoke of a wildfire or bushfire heading towards us. Essentially, our farm was in the path of a terrible fire in 1983, one known as Ash Wednesday. It killed several hundred people, killed millions of stock, farms were destroyed, etc.  

That was my first experience with wildfire. But as it turned out it’s been a lifelong journey in that space.  

More importantly, after the event the next year, I was recruited into the old state-owned electricity corporation and went about the business of understanding how to design, manage, and operate those distribution assets.  

The very first task, when I went to work sometime in 1984, was to begin the augmentation of our network to change the way it was built to prevent the starting of bushfires. It comes to no surprise to anybody listening who’s been in the space, that the single largest outage cause on distribution networks is vegetation.  

Most people would have heard the phrase, trees and powerlines don’t mix. In Australia, and on the West Coast of the U.S., they don’t mix for a very good reason. Because they can start a spark and hence a fire.  

That was the beginning of my introduction to utility networks, wildfires, vegetation, etc.  

Over the next ten years I was in that utility, I worked through a range of roles. The final role I was acting in the position of bushfire mitigation manager. Which, in simple terms, is developing the corporate policy and outworking that policy to protect the authority’s insurance policy with respect to those fires.  

So, I had a great introduction to the world of bushfire mitigation of which the vegetation program was a very significant part, as it is in most utilities.  

So, whether you talk about bushfire mitigation or you talk about vegetation management, in the end it’s an emotional word that we use to focus people’s energy and effort into that part of that segment of the operations.  

1995 brought about great change in our country and we went down the path of privatization. It was during that time that I escaped, I say escaped loosely but that’s what it felt like, and was able to set up our own business with two partners and we built that business over twenty years.  

But the main function was outsourcing the vegetation management role. So, taking the management from inside the utility, taking it out, and then focusing on putting it back in with a single focus on driving efficiencies and change in that space.  

So, got a long history there. You’re right, we did sell that after twenty odd years, but kept this particular piece of technology, the LiDAR and mapping technology, that’s called Intelfuse .  

In my mind that a distillation of some thirty odd years of work trying to take that into the digital world and optimize all the learnings we have because we have very deep domain knowledge.  

As Phil will attest, that domain knowledge is really the essence of life in a way. It’s all pervasive. If you can help people with that historical knowledge of experience, then we’ve got potential to change what goes on.  

The challenge, of course, is how do you digitalize that?  

We’ve seen LiDAR come into play, we’ve seen mobile mapping, we’re now seeing satellites. 

Which are all very interesting. But most of the things I’ve seen do not actually go end to end. They don’t replace enough of the program to make the business case stack up very well.  

So, we’ve been focused on driving that end-to-end process removing as many boots from the ground as we can in order to let the automation take its place and use the skilled arborists foresters for a very specific purpose, to do the work that they’re actually trained to do. Not to walk and count trees and do mundane tasks.  

That’s our objective, and that’s what we’re working towards and, in some respects, succeeding quite well and in others there’s still a way to go. 
READ NEXT: How Business Savvy Land Surveyors Are Growing Their Revenue Through sUAS Mapping Services (Without Investing in Expensive Equipment That Never Gets Used Or Marketing Campaigns That Don’t Work) 

How Intelfuse Facilitates Adoption of Technology 

TEJ: Yeah, and you know Nigel, we’re obviously going to have a very honest discussion about it. I feel like the idea, the vision, what you’re packaging is actually brilliant and extremely thoughtful. 

The one thing, at least in my experience, I’ve seen is that really the challenge becomes the adoption. Replacing the boots is like replacing, in some essence, an aspect of the buyer, which can be very scary. This level of disruption, change, which it truly is.  

Talk a little bit about that challenge. Introducing something to the market that could be game changing. It could, also, scare the market. So, how do you sort of solve for that? How are you solving for that?  

NIGEL: It’s an excellent question.  

I think every client is different. It’s classic selling. You really need to make that discovery of where each customer is.  

Transformation is hard, it’s difficult. When you’re in a space like this where people are very focused, they’re committed individuals, and you want to introduce something that challenges their roles and their friend’s roles, it’s difficult. The best way to start is really in support of what they’re doing. It’s giving them better information.  

I think it’s a black art, and I call it a black art because, fundamentally, no one ever knows what they’ve got to do. If you think about life, you wouldn’t go and build a house or a shed without having dimensions. You wouldn’t pour a slab of concrete if you didn’t know how thick you wanted, or how many square feet you wanted.  

You wouldn’t just go to the concreter and say, “Give me your price to pour a slab.” He’d look at you strangely.  

But in many senses, that’s what we do in our industry. We say, “We want to maintain this clearance through this geography.” You open yourself up to many things.  

Historically, we have been able to get a price on the table. We think we’re using market forces to derive the best price. I’d put it forward that, if you have better information, you could get better outcomes in terms of execution, and ultimately price, and ultimately risk reduction.  

So, what we’re trying to do is be very granular with that data to allow better and deeper analysis from a risk and cost point of view and ultimately from a execution point of view.  

What Are Utilities Missing?  

PHIL: When you say utilities don’t know what’s out there, talk me a little bit about that. They probably don’t have it quantified the way you do, but I would guess most utilities do have metrics on what they’re about to undertake.  

NIGEL: What metrics are you thinking, Phil?  

PHIL: The basic thing from the past was the number of trees that they have to maintain that are within their tolerance limits, acres, or anything else. They usually gather that from a more timely inventory from the boots on the ground.  

NIGEL: Fair point. I guess what I’m more interested in is the complete inventory, not just the trees that are there for today. I’m interested in the trees for tomorrow, next year, next three years, and the next five years. How the trees are interacting with every other tree. Once you go through a spurn and you make a cut, it’s done. I’m interested in what’s being left behind and how that’s going to change in time and over what time.  

So, I would contend that whilst utilities might think they know what they’ve got, I don’t believe they know what they really have.   

PHIL: Yeah, I understand. It depends on if we’re talking about this year, the next ten years, over the course of the cycle, or whatever their scheduling period is.  

NIGEL: Well, let’s have a chat about that, because it is a very valid point.  

Once you send your ten men out, or women, I would contend that you’ll get seven different answers. That in itself suggests that we have a risk in our strategy and our plan.  

So, trying to get a singular truth of data based on the business rules of the utility, and then using that in our planning and our execution is where we’re trying to drive to. So, having more granular, deeper, better data to do a better analysis. Apply risk and cost equations and come up with, essentially, which tree to cut first in order to have a better grip on risk.  

How Data It is Critical to Intelfuse  

TEJ: For the viewing audience here, so that people understand essentially what you’re doing, in order for your secret sauce and your IP to work the basic input would have to be LiDAR data.  

You need data to then map out some type of 3D image of the entire system where you can then measure point to point, the appropriate clearances, etc. You have a good snapshot understanding of what the system looks like visually.  

Is that correct, am I saying this right?  

NIGEL: We certainly use LiDAR as our base case. We’ve found LiDAR to be the most accurate source of data. But we can also use satellite. The truth is the accuracy is not at the level that we need. But the LiDAR is. The cost of LiDAR collection is coming down by the day. I’m sure once we get beyond visual line of sight drones in the air it’s going to be very tough to beat the accuracy.  

We in utilities love accuracy. We’re engineers, that’s what drives us. So, at the end of the day if you’re in a wildfire in a risk situation and you’ve got an insurance policy that says you must maintain a certain clearance, you’re not going to trust an inaccurate data set.  

Data Quality Today  

TEJ: In order for your software to do what it’s doing at the level that you want to do it at, it’s a function of the quality and the accuracy of the data capture.  

So, in your opinion, where do we sit in terms of that? The input that’s coming in, where do you think that is in in terms of the quality? Are we seventy percent of the way there, sixty?  

NIGEL: From a LiDAR perspective? Oh, I think we’re much better than that. LiDAR has come a long way. It’s much simpler in the way it’s collected. 

Clearly you need to have a specification, and that doesn’t need to be complex. It just needs to meet certain criteria.  

What’s important moving into the distribution world, which is of course where the majority of the risk is left these days, is it needs to be cost competitive.  

So, whilst LiDAR sensors are getting better and better, you can get literally hundreds of points per square meter. It may or may not be cost effective to use that data.  

So, what we’ve found is we can certainly get away with a lot less. In trying to get the right cost mix we’re focused on getting the minimum data we need in order to achieve the objectives we have.  

PHIL: The volume of data is just amazing. What’s available to work with.  

NIGEL: Too true, Phil. As you well know, you can overlay those various layers of information to enhance the outputs.  

So, we’ve taken a slightly different approach.  

The LiDAR is a huge data set. We’ve taken the approach of building a 3D model of every single stem, pulled out the conductors, pulled out the poles, the ground, and the man-made objects. Because it’s all modeled, we can script automatically all the compliance measurements required for the utility and set up clearance zones.  

Every utility has a different sort of clearance zone for different reasons. So, to be able to ingest that business rule into the system is critical, and then to publish it out in the form that they need it.  

This is a really key thing, to get the data in a form. I know in the U.S. it’s called actionable insights, but in my view, it’s just data that the man on the ground can understand and use.  

It’s very simple, that’s the holy grail.  

PHIL: Defining the clearance or the tolerance limits has to be a key to what drives your decisions. I understand it on transmission, because those are defined by regulation.  

Here in the states, I don’t know about Australia, but in California and a lot of the west there may be clearance that’s regulated on distribution. For the vast majority of our country, though, that relationship between tree and the line isn’t quite as well defined.  

Are you running into that, and how are you handling that?


NIGEL: That’s a great question. My world is quite rigid, and, in some cases, we have legislative clearance. The rest is regulated.  

You’re right the west coast of the U.S. is not dissimilar to the Australian style. In our case where we’re required to keep trees outside the zone, in many places in the U.S. you’re required to cut the trees to outside the zone.  

So, two different scenarios.  

What we’ve seen with the people we’ve talked to is they have really liked the idea that they can challenge their regime and understand the cost of changing the clearance zone.  

I would contend with the LiDAR outputs that you don’t need to persist with a one size fits all. If you can understand your risk profile through the environment, via customer, or whatever drives your risk profile, then you can apply a different clearance regime to those different areas 

Furthermore, Phil, you’d well understand the Australian situation. We’re required to take into account sag and sway which is necessary phenomena for the transmission networks. But that’s on our distribution networks. Sag and sway drive a lot of those cutting decisions.  

So, this idea that we can now bring the level of risk down to a level of granularity at tree level, span level, or whatever you want it. This is a very important concept going forward, because having a digital line of sight of what is actually there and why you made certain decisions is going to be critical when your backed into a corner by, in my language, a coroner’s court, or up against the insurers.  

So, having this knowledge of why certain decisions were made against what business rule and having a singular truth of data becomes a critical path for the future.  

TEJ: So, you brought up something I wanted to kind of touch on.  

Specifically, away from technology and more about the culture. You live in Melbourne, and you know that Intelfuse has partnered with a couple of Australian-based utilities. That’s what you guys have been sort of running your trials through. Your knowledge of the U.S. market and other geographies, talk a little bit about the difference in culture of how business gets done. How regulatory bodies differ.  

You mentioned some very technical differences, but what about from a cultural perspective?  

How different is it trying to penetrate the U.S market versus operating within the Australian one?  

NIGEL: In many ways they’re similar.  

However, relationships always go a long way. Credibility needs to be built in time, and with credibility comes the opportunity to work with people and develop concepts with them.  

So, I’ve never had the good fortune of being able to walk in the door and come out with a contract. I’ve never seen that happen, I would love for it to happen, but it’s always years of work. You’ve got to build rapport. You’ve got to build a level of trust and prove your capability.  

So, in that respect I don’t think they’re different.  

The differences are is it is much harder for an Australian utility not to do work. Just because there’s a budget crunch doesn’t mean that they can stop cutting trees. Especially in this new climbed affected world.  

It would be fair to say in Australia now, areas that had not ever experienced a wildfire two or three years ago had the worst in memory. Those areas you would have called quite temperate and even subtropical. But they literally perished.  

So, things are always on review, and I suspect that the U.S. will face similar climate challenges. So, regulators will adopt and change as they see the need to protect the constituency.  

TEJ: I know Phil has a lot of opinions on this when he was building consultancy a decade and a half ago and was operating in international markets. 

 At least in the U.S., as you move from state to state, as you move from west to east, north to south, the subcultures are so different.  

The approach, the strategies, the risks, the regulatory requirements, what the PUC is doing here versus what they’re doing over here.  

So, these subcultures, what I’ve observed in my very limited lens, is that there’s a dislocation, a very disconnected sort of thing. The standardization of process approach, like you said Nigel, you can send a group of people out there and get quite a varied data set of opinions.  

I also feel that you get a very data set of leadership, a very data set of approach, and it becomes very hard to commoditize these types of processes. There’s no standardization of education.  

I know Phil works very diligently with industry groups to try to bring that standardization to a level where we can start to have a good idea sharing and could exchange of process. But I don’t know if we’re there yet.  

PHIL: I was recently working on a case with five expert witnesses looking at one tree and like you said, Nigel, five answers.  

NIGEL: Yeah, well I’m sure it’s the same in this country, but in Australia there’s seven states or something. When we had our own cutting resource, we could not bring a man from one state to the other and start work. You had to have a different training regime.  

When you think about that you say, “What are we doing to ourselves?” I can only imagine what it must be like here. As you move from a more regulated environment, which I would assume California is, to come further to the Midwest, I’m sure there are different standards and requirements simply because of what drives the OSHA rules. Also, unionized workforces and different things.  

So, training, training, training. You could not do enough if you want to build that OSHA culture into what’s a very dangerous industry.  

I always say to people, “You’re sending relatively unskilled men into the air in a bucket truck near live powerlines with a chainsaw on a road reserve. What more do you want?”  

Then, you’ve got to know how to cut the trees as well. So, we’ve got a very complex and challenging industry. So, investment in training at all levels is absolutely critical if we’re going to make improvements in the ultimate outcome.  

Today, we’ve talked really about how we get to a point where we can execute, not necessarily how we execute the work. There is a separation there and a whole different game.  

TEJ: When we met for dinner, Nigel, you had mentioned it’s an eight-person team, including yourself. You’ve got some developers and some vegetation expertise.  

So, if somebody just dropped a hundred million dollars in your lap tomorrow, what are you using that money for?  

Is the software as it stands today completely functional?  

Can it handle anything?  

Or what is the dollar of capital use for you, what does it do for your product and service?  

NIGEL: That’s an interesting question. We can easily cope with any transmission project anywhere in the world. The challenge with distribution, of course, is somewhat different.  

We’re still building and scaling up our capacity to do literally hundreds of thousands of poles per month.  

If you look at networks in the U.S. many are fully encompassed and surrounded by trees. So, the ability of algorithms to extract a pole out of a forest, or an urban forest, is quite complex.  

So, there’s a whole range of automation work that’s still to be completed there. We’ve got a way to go, but our tree segmentation is really fantastic.  

There are workarounds to achieve that, but the major investment would be in scaling up.  

Measuring a business value to me is not necessarily about the number of employees you have. It’s actually, in this case, about how we can push data through the system out the other side so it’s usable in the fastest possible manner.  

So, if I was fortunate enough to have access to some of that capital that’s where I’d push it. Just drive those algorithms harder, push it through quicker on a larger scale.  

TEJ: Basically, more development cost, right? More software development, processing engines.  

NIGEL: Yeah, it’s very targeted development costs. If you think about it, really there’s half a dozen essential algorithms. So, it’s improving the automation around that pole extraction, the conductor extraction.  

The rest actually works very well. But, when you get to scale, you need to obviously harden the net, harden the databases and make sure that it’s stable.  

PHIL: So, you’re pushing data, you’re not acquiring it. Are you usually dependent on third party acquisition?  

NIGEL: We are, Phil. We’re happy to work with a client to subcontract that work. But I’ve focused on this middleware type proposition.  

We’re seeing a lot of utilities now investing in their own LiDAR systems. There are many other people moving into the market, whether it be drones, helicopters, or fixed wing. Even Geiger mode LiDAR covering large swaths of the country at once.  

There are experts at that. All we need to do is ride a spec and then push or pull it in however people want.  

The Future of Vegetation Management Data  

PHIL: Are you going to predict the future?  

Are we going to see more and more drones or more and more satellites?  

Where are we headed?  

NIGEL: I think we’re definitely going to see drones go beyond the visual line of sight with LiDAR. That’s really going to be a cost driver.  
Look at the drone situation now. I think they’re funky and really cool. But when you can only fly one or so miles before you have to move and reset up it doesn’t lend itself to large scale production, Phil.  

You would know that. A man could have done five times what was done by a drone in that time. So, it’s probably not going to be sustainable.  

There’s going to be people closing out work by using drones as audit tools. But frankly I see that moving into augmented reality closing out work.  

That’s a topic for another day, and perhaps not as public as this. But I see a lot of that being done prior to the workforce moving from the site. I believe satellites will have a major role to play as accuracy increases. If you’re able to derive LiDAR from space, why wouldn’t you want to do it?  

But I think the model will change. I think it will be become a data on demand model.  

People struggle with flying the whole network. Whilst at one level it’s fantastic to have the complete data set and analyze the whole network, it’s almost not practical. The level of risk potential that it brings to the table is almost unimaginable in some cases.  

So, I think staged approaches and data on demand are going to be much more in play as we progress forward.  

READ NEXT: The Fixed-Wing VTOL Drone Soaring Eagle Technologies Used for BVLOS Operations Now Carries LiDAR Payloads 

TEJ: Nigel, you have such a good international lens. With what’s happening in Australia, do you think Australia is ahead or behind the U.S. in traditional vegetation practices, technology, both hardware and software? Where does that part of the world sit, and do you think there are other parts in Europe that are ahead or behind? Who’s leading globally in this space?  

NIGEL: Best practice is driven by local requirements. What works in one place doesn’t necessarily work in another.  

So, I think we’re all trying to solve our own problems. But what we can do is interact better and learn more from the other side of the fence. Share better information, be collaborative in these sorts of things, because there are learnings from both sides.  

I look at the IVM strategy here in the U.S. and think, well that’s pretty neat. That’s clever. Do we do it in Australia? Not in the same way or same language, not with the same passion. Do we manage risk differently in Australia? Absolutely. Why? Because we’ve been forced to. So, what’s right and what’s wrong?  

I think the great challenge is, when you have incidents there’s a natural reaction to spend money rather than taking a breath.  

PHIL: Yeah, the whole idea of matching resources to the real risk. That’s where we need to be constantly moving.  

NIGEL: I hate to say, Phil, but goes to my point of actually knowing what you have. Where it is. When you have that that’s when you can start to ask very different questions. When you get those answers, you can ask even more questions.  

Sometimes it’s not obvious.  

PHIL: It gets complicated. The relationship between a tree or proximity to the conductor and the importance of that and that concept or context of fire is one thing. In the context of reliability, it’s another.  

I imagine there’s other things that are driving utilities. So, it is interesting how you interpret that and how they’ll make decisions in the future.  

NIGEL: It’s a great point because if you look at the risk matrix of all these, they’re all those items you mentioned, then there’s supplier reliability, customer issues, and environmental issues that can and should be overlaid on all that.  

So, when you’re able to know what you have and then apply those layers and lenses to it you can then begin to filter in a very different way and get very specific where the risk is.  

I personally would much rather be in court with that level of data and explain why we did it this way and why we cut that tree and not this one. As I’ve said before, it’s a black art and that’s because there’s so much subjectivity.  

Of course, this data that we have is not perfect. But what you can say is that the reasons, based on a set of business rules articulated by the utility, we’re able to make this decision when ranking this risk against that risk. That to me is the start of a new way of doing business and thinking.  

At the moment, unfortunately, we’ve got the ten men out there and the seven answers. No one’s right and no one’s wrong. It’s subjective. That’s really difficult to support.  

PHIL: All kinds of decisions. Do you take a tree that’s a hundred percent likely to cause one person to be out of service, or a tree that’s thirty percent likely to take a thousand people out of service? What’s the driver? It really opens up so many possibilities on how you can assess risk.  

NIGEL: It’s fantastic, isn’t it?  

How good is it to have that data to be able to ask and test the assumptions around that.  

TEJ: So right now, Nigel, in your life cycle of bringing this to market, describe some of the challenges. What are you running up against? Is it people don’t buy it, adoption, cost, you’re too far ahead? Where are you right now?  

NIGEL: That’s also an interesting question and one I reflect on almost daily.  

I can safely say that everybody that we’ve shown the software and the outputs has said, “This is amazing.” In some cases you hear, “This is a missing link.” And so on.  

The challenge, of course, is in order for those people who technically understand it to move forward, there’s a number of layers of hierarchy to move through.  

Secondly, it’s difficult because you have this data, you have this opportunity to transform so many things. You challenge your contracting model which we all know has a life cycle.  

So, you can’t race in and throw that lump sum, mile, or hourly contract out and convert to whatever you want to do. It takes time.  

Furthermore, you’ve got embedded resource that’s used to doing things in a certain way. You can’t change them overnight. So, it becomes a change management process.  

What I do believe is that if you’re able to work in a collaborative partnering way with people you can step your way through with proof of concepts through trials, through larger geographical areas and test these things before you go through the big bang.  

There won’t be enough trust in the process.  

So, they’re sort of the reflections I’ve been having, Tej, as to the ways forward. But it all comes down to people, trust, and collaboration.  

The most important thing, how do the people in the field take your data and execute? If they can’t do that as if it were yesterday with the old data, it will almost inevitably fail.  

TEJ: I was going to comment on that because, though you may be solving for the seven different opinions, the tool, and I see what you’re developing as this very well-designed tool, it still requires good data. It still requires an element of good human interaction. Good execution. 

So, there’s still that balance of technology meets good decision making. So, it’ll be interesting to see how you can demonstrate that process to your buying market.  

NIGEL: Well, let’s just walk that back a bit, Tej.  

I wouldn’t disagree, but I’ll put this as an alternative. I spent twenty years trying to outsource the management function from utilities. Phil probably did the same thing, but maybe in a slightly different way.  

One of the things that we did, we actually took skills away from the utility. So, what you have now is, in some ways, a loss of knowledge about how the contracting market works. How the tree business works.  

TEJ: You mean inside the utility?  

NIGEL: Yes. So, what I think we’re enabling here is them to take more control of their program. So, for them to specify explicitly what they want done to a tree rather than how a span or a mile should look.  

Now this is a fundamental difference. It’s what Phil’s former resource would do. They’d walk the field and they’d say, “We want this tree removed,” or, “This tree trimmed,” and so on. But, once again you had the ten with seven answers type scenario.  

Now I’m not saying that’s how it was really, but that’s in general the subjective nature of what we do. But if people trust the data, and we’ve seen now over several iterations of rolling contracts, that they don’t even look at the 3D visualization now it’s just give the data out.  

But the most important thing here is that we take back control of what gets done. Because in the tree game, if you’re the client, if you don’t cut a tree, you don’t spend money. But what if you should have cut that tree? Then you’re likely to spend a lot of money down the track.  

So, it’s knowing which tree to cut and when and why not to, or why to. Those things can be subjective. But by hardening this up, we get to a much better place in terms of data integrity and therefore be able to control the program going forward.  

PHIL: Make the cuts that have the impact.  

TEJ: Phil, you just gave Nigel a tagline. I love it.  

NIGEL: No, but in all seriousness you’re exactly right. The different contract models drive different behaviors. We need to have the behaviors that actually achieve the objectives of the utility in the most efficient, least risk way.  

TEJ: I love software. I love the digital age, I’m a huge sucker for it in all aspects of my life. The industry and the sector in particular is right for it, is curious about it, the risk profile is so front and center now in every state and most countries whether it’s a climate or environmental conversation.  

This is all happening in very real time. I always get concerned about adoption and timing, if things are early. I think you’re on the right track, I really do. I think you’ve developed something very thoughtful and sleek, and it represents kind of your life’s body of work integrated into the digital age.  

So, as we continue to develop a relationship and a friendship and drink your fantastic chardonnay, which I can’t wait to do, I really look forward to watching your journey in this process. I do think you’ve developed something that warrants a lot of attention.  

But I do think you’re going to face some hurdles that, some that you know of, and some that are going to punch you in the face you’re not expecting. But I do think that you’re on the right track, right journey.  

So, I’m very excited to see your progress and monitor it.  

PHIL: I’m envious, Nigel. I spent a lot of my career where the industry was without data. Just didn’t have it. Then I think of what you’re working with now and it’s just absolutely amazing.  

NIGEL: Yeah, well thanks, Phil and Tej. I’ll be more than happy to share and collaborate with you both because I think we all ride on the shoulders of people that have gone before us and taught us. I had many mentors.  

To be able to have those experiences over all these years in different parts of the country and different parts of the world. To learn from those people, that’s the part that’s the impetus what’s been distilled into the way we think.  

Whilst we have a software, it’s actually informed by our experiences. It’s not a technology pushed down, it’s our experiences informing how the technology needs to deliver information for us, as people at the coalface.  

That’s a really critical point of what we’ve tried to do and why. We find that when the adoption is finally there, there’s a thirst for even pushing it even further because the data makes sense.  

It’s in a format, it’s in a language, that everybody’s used to. That’s the critical thing with software, that it needs to have the DNA of the industry in it. I’m hoping that what we’ve actually done.  

TEJ: Hearing your background, you and Phil actually for a period of your career shared a very similar background both in the private sector and of course where you started at the utility, that clearly seems like it’s being integrated into your solution.  

You’re joining another Ozzie who’s disrupting the world right now. You’re trying to take on vegetation management and Greg Norman’s taking on the PGA with his LIV golf. So, you’re in good company with global disruption.  

NIGEL: Well, yes. He’s got the money I have.  

TEJ: Yeah, he’s got some wine too.  

Well, Phil, I don’t know if you have any other final thoughts.  

PHIL: No, I really appreciate it, Nigel.  

TEJ: This was fantastic. Like I said I look forward to continuing dialogue with you offline and really learning more about the software and technology and seeing your progress within the U.S.  

But thank you so much for joining us and taking the time. It was a great conversation, I really enjoyed chatting with you.  

PHIL: Thanks, Nigel.  

NIGEL: Thank you, Phil. And thanks, Tej. Been my pleasure.  


TEJ: That’s it for this episode of Trees and Lines brought to you by Iapetus Holdings.  

If you like the show, please give us a five-star rating on Apple or Spotify.  

If you have any questions or comments on any of our episodes or ideas for topics or guests, we’d love to hear from you please contact us at Trees and Lines at iapetusllc.com.  

We’ll chat with you soon! 

Related Posts