HackNelson, the weekend summary

Collaboration, brainstorming, diverse teams, stress, dramas, salmon, masseuses, coffee and more coffee, <HackNelson> 2017 truly took Nelson by storm this weekend and is a great step forward in helping the region develop its own flavour.

The event, run by Matthew Dodd and his Datacom Nelson team working in conjunction with the Nelson Regional Development Authority (NRDA) attracted almost 50 participants from across Nelson, as well as customers and students from Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT).

A hackathon or hackfest is a time-bound, theme-based challenge that brings people of diverse backgrounds and experiences to ‘hack’ an exciting new idea into a prototype, generally over 48 hours. 

Nelson’s theme was Fresh Ideas for Regional Producers and grew out of our desire to support local producers from the Nelson region compete nationally and internationally.

The diversity of teams was a highlight. Teams included developers, project managers, infrastructure support specialists, UX specialists, graphic designers, consultants, service delivery managers and testers, amongst other roles who attended.

Nelson’s regional producers were out in force, with New Zealand King Salmon, Tasman Bay Food Group, health drinks supplier Chia, Pic’s Peanut Butter, the Nelson Provincial Museum and Nelson Forests all contributing challenges for the participants to solve over the weekend.  

Judges for HackNelson were Mayor of Nelson, Rachel Reese, local entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Snap Information Technologies, Chris Rodley and Datacom’s, Kerry Topp, Associate Director, Transformation & Innovation in Auckland.      

Judging on Sunday

At the judging on Sunday, Kerry Topp (Judge) gave feedback to all seven teams. He shared his belief in the power of working together around New Zealand and doubling down on regional themes that have the potential to transform industries, governments and societies. Topp also commented on the compelling stories from producers within the Nelson Region and how their willingness to step into HackNelson had triggered a desire for people from Nelson and across NZ to attend and innovate together.

Matthew Dodd, Datacom Nelson’s regional manager and the lead organiser, said that many teams gave a clear explanation of the benefits of their ideas, and got their concepts and prototypes to a place where they could start being applied tomorrow.

Dodd went on to say that he was blown away by the passion and creativity of the competitors. He said that putting your ideas out there takes a lot of courage, and encouraged competitors to pursuing what they really believe in.

The HackNelson effort and success was recognised by The Mayor Rachel Reese as well as Mark Rawson the CEO of NRDA.

Mentions must also go to the mentors who contributed significantly to their respective teams and the overall event.

The winners

First prize went to Team Can – a diverse mix of people from Nelson, Dunedin and Wellington who were working on how to create a tighter end-customer connection with Pic’s Peanut Butter’s consumers globally.

The team produced an Augmented Reality (AR) solution, similar to Pokémon Go, that creates a fun and engaging way for consumers to engage with Pic’s Peanut Butter, and also provides the owner, Pic Picot with the ability to know who his customers are and engage with them to help with product feedback and enhancement.

The idea is an app that can help engage and connect consumers of Pic’s Peanut Butter with a virtual Pic or even, Pic himself. The team won $2,000 prize money for winning the event.

Second prize went to Team Fishy Business, utilising the latest in Artificial Intelligence and image recognition to assist in the quality grading of King Salmon, currently a manual process that relies on human eye and judgement.

The concept the team developed and brought to life over the weekend is a combination of hardware and application that helps with the quality grading of King Salmon.

The problem of incorrect classifications is a problem for New Zealand King Salmon. Within the weekend the team successfully came up with a method to recognise fish defects using a combination of technology. The team won $1,000 prize money for placing second in the event.


One project got the go ahead on the night and another three are strong candidates to continue development in the coming weeks.

This is an amazing result for the people involved, as well as for the region.