Hill News August 2020 - Message from the CEO
You will all be as disappointed as we are about the reemergence of COVID-19 in our communities. It's difficult to write anything here that hasn't already been covered by the media and by countless commentators. We are, of course, hopeful that this recent outbreak is successfully contained, and we will be doing everything we can to support the government’s efforts to stamp it out. As an MoH-approved laboratory for coronavirus testing, we do have an important role to play, and a group of our staff have been hard at work to get this service back up and running so that we can support the DHBs by doing their overflow testing. In particular, we have had to reconfigure parts of our systems and workflows to allow the pooling of four samples into one, which improves throughput and conserves reagents. I am proud of the way several of our key staff have kicked into gear again, working weekends and evenings to ensure that our methods and systems are properly configured to allow a smooth and reliable flow of a large number of samples and the associated data.
And yet, despite the re-emergence of COVID-19, here at Hill labs we are approaching a period of exciting growth, underpinned by three acquisitions. The first is the acquisition of a suite of software tools - named Hilltop - that are used by many of our existing customers, principally Regional Councils and Territorial Authorities, and hydroelectric energy generation companies, to manage time-series data relating to environmental water quality and quantity. This service offering will sit alongside our existing portfolio of water quality lab testing services, and capitalises on our growing digital capability. Key staff will be joining us from Hilltop Software as part of the acquisition to ensure continuity of expertise is maintained, and we are looking forward to learning more about how customers are using the Hilltop products and working with them to design and deliver improvements in the future.
The second acquisition is of the operations of Napier-based "Vine Test Labs" (VTL), who test for viral pathogens in grapevines. This is coming on the back of the acquisition of Villa Maria's nursery operations, including the VTL operations, by Ormond Nurseries, who we are technically purchasing the VTL assets from the day after their deal with Villa Maria settles. We have enjoyed learning about this new type of testing and are becoming well-connected to some of the industry players in this space. We look forward to offering, and growing, these plant pathogen services out of our Blenheim laboratory from next year onwards.
Finally, in late September we will complete a deal to purchase the TDDA/Omega Laboratories operations for drug testing in urine. We will move the operations from Auckland to our large Hamilton laboratory over a weekend, without service delivery being interrupted. Key staff will also move with the operations into our team to ensure that capability and accreditation is maintained. While TDDA will become a valuable first customer, we will also be offering these new services to other potential customers in the market, and so we look forward to exploring this opportunity in the months ahead.
In such uncertain times, we are extremely fortunate to have some positive things happening in our business, and to feel assured of our future. I hope you, our customers, are also weathering the storm well, and that you and your families, your staff, and your businesses all remain in good health.
- Dr Jonno Hill, CEO