WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

Gathering votes
Gathering votes

A data collective allowing communities to collaborate and share knowledge, leading to better community engagement and more Tui

New Zealand has a big hairy goal of being predator free by 2050. Current thinking is that 1 in 5 New Zealanders will need to be involved to make this possible. That's one million people. How are we going engage one million people to go out and control predators, not only in our backyard but on public land and in reserves? How are we going to broadcast best practice and developments in scientific thinking? And how are we going to best use the data to ensure the limited resources are put to their best use?

Agile Cloud has been thinking about these questions and have developed a unified environmental information system to centralise all environmental data. We are at an advanced stage of helping community groups to engage and motivating the wide variety of groups in order to create a predator free New Zealand.

What conservation problem are you trying to solve?

"To record predator control is not a waste of resource. To not record predator control is a waste of resource".
This is a common theme from predator control scientists. In order for community groups to record their predator control accurately, there must a be an immediate and direct benefit to the group. That is, it must be directly available back to them for managing the predator control life cycle such as funder reports, managing volunteer enthusiasm, community engagement, social media and analytics. When community groups see the personal benefit of collectively centralising data, then they will put in the effort of accurate data collection. Then regional authorities can use this data for tactical and strategic decision making and central government can use the data for game changing decision making.

Agile Cloud has solved the problem of how to enable community groups to accurate record all their environmental data in one collective unified environmental information system.

How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

Solving the problem of unifying environmental data is a highly technical subject. It goes something like this. We have reviewed dozens of environmental systems and the common theme is that their design is based on the same thinking used to design accounting systems (first common use of the relational database).

It was clear to us that managing environmental data required a fresh look at how we designed information systems. This is because environmental data is by far the most complex data we have come across. So we developed a new design paradigm to allow for the complexity of environmental data.

We developed a system based on the rules of language. Specifically, based on nouns, verbs and adjectives. Species are nouns, doing stuff like visiting a trap is a verb. A community group is an adjective (a relationship between different people).

This design model allows us to very quickly develop a wide range of environmental processes taking into account all the different ways people interact.

What makes your idea new and unique?

Agile Cloud is a platform for environmental information management. We can take any known data, including from our community engagement portal, Excel, other on-line systems, historical data and unify it using a common format into our data collective, and then make it available back to the groups, professional conservation organisations, local and central government.

How will we know if we are succeeding when the data is in standalone siloes, in systems that separate predator control from bird observations, separates Facebook from community engagement, when the apps only manage one or two processes, when groups have no visibility of what the other groups are doing.

Central to the evolution of Predator Free New Zealand is the need for a democratic unified environmental information system. All data in one collective. Environmental data alongside social data.

Agile Cloud has made the technical leap. It is live and being used by groups today. No other system in the world can achieve this.

Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

The volunteer benefits by recording all their data on one phone app. They receive analytics and showing how their effort is part of a much bigger effort.

The street co-ordinator benefits by seeing which volunteers are engaging, or need help. They send out positive comms and reminder emails and connect their individuals with expert help.

Neigbourhood networks benefit because they can see which street groups they should focus their attention on.

Schools benefit because they use the visualisations to engage children.

School children will benefit from being educated on predator control through gamifying the predator control process. Blowing up predators is awesome. So is Tui happiness.

Profressional community groups benefit through automating their processes such as funder reports. Different professional groups are already beginning to colloborate their efforts using Agile Cloud.

Councils benefit from making strategy decisions based on accurate data.

Tui benefit by not being eaten. Lizards too.

What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

Agile Cloud has already started engaging with community groups for a predator free Waitakere. Every known community group in the Waitakere Region has committed to sharing their unified data on Agile Cloud. We are already recording citizen science and community engagement.

The Waitakere region is a microcosm of New Zealand. Suburban, urban bush, rural, coastal and industrial. Waitakere offers the perfect test platform to develop the predator free programme templates.

The money will be spent on enabling the Waitakere region community groups to develop new Zealand’s most sophisticated volunteer infrastructure. From the individual rat trap to the Street group to the Neighbourhood Network.

The money will be spent on two tasks. A co-ordinator to help bring on new community groups and to continue to evolve the engagement models for the different community groups.

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?


I have read and agree to the Crowdicity Terms of Use, the Conservation Innovation Awards 2017 Supplemental Terms and Conditions, and the Crowdicity Privacy Policy


List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?

This website is the hub for environmental innovation so Im going to list 5 categories.

Te Wananga Papa Taiao and Te Rarawa Noho Taiao are creating infrastructure for conservation in the rural areas, where conservation is needed most. They provide the rural gateway for ALL the ideas to the generation who is actually going to solve this and must be supported today, they are critical to delivering conservation to our rural forests which will be the hardest evironmental problem to solve. We are enjoying working with Papa Taiao to make this happen.

Bloody awesome thinking.
Best Bait and Ur bins. Laughed out loud, great concepts, Goodness, how obvious.

Data Collection apps.
Urban rat project, Hector’s app, STREAMED seem like competing ideas, but different apps reach different communities, we needn't be app averse as long as the data from all the apps can be unified. The sum of apps is exponentially more powerful when collated into a data collective.

Cacophony project, X-Specs, Thermal imaging, Squawk Squad are all great sensor based innovations. They are using their technical knowledge and making specific solutions. Sensor data needs to have their solutions benchmarked their against data standards to prove if it is working.

The fifth category is bringing all the ideas together. Sensor innovators, data innovators and education innovators. Funders need to recognise that the ideas here are the future of predator free NZ.

How could you improve your idea?

What we are working on is in a constant state of evolution. The most important next step is that we gift our system to the Conservation Engagement Group which is currently a work in progress. Conservation data needs to be democratic and available to all (where permissions allow). It cannot be owned by a particular organisation. The Conservation Engagement Group is forming a trust and will own the data and ensure that the system is robust, they are doing due diligence  and ensuring the security is appropriate, on behalf of all groups. They will ensure the system is sustainable financially and technically.

A great idea is nothing without it being used. We need to get it out to groups at a faster rate than we currently are, the hard work is done but deployment requires funding.

We need to add a bit of pizazz to our conservation engagement portal. It functions well but is quite data centric. The data is the most important element but now that this step is working, we need to add better graphics.

We need to improve the way we provide groups with summarised data so they can communicate their success stories without having to touch the data. They need to have visualisations working in real time that plugged straight into their websites, that they can use for their email communications and social media. We need to simplify the way groups use their data, maps and visualisations for better community engagement and conservation outcomes.

edited on Oct 15, 2017 by Steven MacLeod

Jennifer Mcguire Oct 11, 2017

Great initiative - I thoroughly support this and hope you get enough votes in by Sunday! Good luck!


Keith Salmon Oct 12, 2017

Good luck in winning an award. The Agile Cloud system offers a great opportunity to allow everyone from volunteers to citizen scientists to professionals to collaborate on recording and sharing the work they are doing to save our environment - whether it's getting rid of predators and weeds or nurturing native species. I hope that everyone gets behind this and votes for you.


Keith Salmon Oct 13, 2017

I'm involved in a pest free programme in a North Shore local board area with a population of over 80k people and more bush reserves than most parts of Auckland other than the Waitakeres. Over the past 10 years we have grown to have over 21 bush restoration groups in our local board area. Our aim is to have at least one group for every bush reserve plus other street based groups looking after the halos around the reserves. This work can't be done in spreadsheets or even a home made database. Going forward, we are using a CRM system plus various systems to manage pest monitoring and control and about to develop other systems to record restoration and predator control plans, tree planting and locations, events etc.

The originality and key advantage of the Agile Cloud approach is that it will give an integrated, flexible and scalable environment to allow local coordination of street groups, bush restoration groups, special purpose groups (eg ginger ninjas, moth plant groups), pin-pointing myrtle rust, monitoring stream restoration, pollution and erosion, etc. It will be able to give an integrated view of the natural environment, the people and organisations involved in supporting it and the activities in progress.

There are some really good apps out there to do specific jobs (eg track moth plant, monitor predator control), but to my knowledge nothing was available to provide an integrated platform to engage with volunteers, contractors, scientist and Council/DoC staff and to allow the sharing of data across local groups and official organisations. The Agile Cloud concept is unique in providing both relationship management AND GIS located data. about our natural environment. The information from Agile Cloud can be shared with ESRI and other GIS systems.

Compared with other relationship management systems that I have worked with over the last 10 years, it provides a more sophisticated model to handle the different roles that people can have in various groups and locations. It has the sophistication to develop integration with other pest control and environmental systems to groups to work together.

Most importantly, Agile Cloud's unique approach to integrated, flexible design gives it great flexibility going forward (see the review by David White at https://agilecloud.com/techDW.htm).

As Auckland Council moves forward to develop Pest Free Auckland and to work with DoC and a multitude of volunteer and professional groups across Auckland, the Agile Cloud approach provides a unique, original and innovative framework to handle these relationships and activities. It has the great potential to solve the problem of how can Council work with volunteer groups while maintaining trust and commitment whlle also adapting to change and scaling to wider spheres of usage.

In terms of originality it definitely merits serious attention. In terms of responsiveness to the needs of emerging groups, its underlying design will provide a framework that will provide a faster time to get new functionality and groups up and going than other less agile systems.

I hope that the Waitakere group gets the funding to move Agile Cloud forward so that it can also provide benefits to other groups across Auckland.


Steven MacLeod Oct 13, 2017

Thanks very much Keith. the link didn't work, so here it again.


Steven MacLeod Oct 13, 2017

And another technical review from Mike Zeff who used to be the lead developer at Microsoft NZ


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Alexandre Giuseppe Pereira Oct 12, 2017

I'm very impressed with this work!


Jo-Anna Crosby Oct 12, 2017

We live in an urban bush area where we all live amongst trees. Our street group brings us together with a common cause. On the website I can see how our street group is doing compared to the others in our neighbourhood.


Paula McArthur Oct 12, 2017

What an awesome idea to support citizen scientists in their work!


Peter Hosking Oct 12, 2017

I'm convenor of a pest free project and this idea will be essential for collating our various data


Brent Beaven Oct 12, 2017

Hi Steven.
Was great to go through this with you last month. I was impressed by what you have achieved. Was thinking about how this comes together and have a couple of questions or you. We often collect lots of data we don't really need. How do you filter this out? Also, we are often more interested in the number of pests left in an environment as opposed to what was caught. Does your system allow easy viewing of monitoring of remaining pest populations?
Good luck with the entry,


Steven MacLeod Oct 12, 2017

Hi Brent, thanks for your feedback.

To specifically answer your question. Recording and analyzing the kills will give you a good idea of the number of pests that remain?

A more general answer. There will be hundreds of questions like this not yet imagined and a well-designed system like Agile Cloud will answer them. We are the central data repository for all citizen science environmental data and we develop whatever is required. As the science changes, the data requirements will change and Agile Cloud is designed to keep up with these changes.

For social data, as communication and engagement models change, we also need to keep up with these changes.
Science and communication and community engagement need to drive the database and the database needs to be able to respond. That’s what Agile Cloud does.


Keith Salmon Oct 14, 2017

For the Pest Free Kaipatiki project, the approach is to complement trapping statistics with monitoring via chew cards, tracking tunnels, etc. The discussions we've had with Steven so far envisage that monitoring modules would sit alongside trapping/baiting modules as well as bird and other flora and fauna counts to allow an integrated view of pest presence/absence and biodiversity restoration success.

The help we've had from the Auckland Council monitoring unit suggests that these data items will be analysed in conjunction with weather and geographical data to establish wider patterns. That's why I am keen to see an integrated database concept.

Another concept we've discussed with Steve is having an indicator against the persons/equipment reporting observations so that volunteer data when shared with scientists in Councils, Govt departments, etc can be filtered by the skill level of the observer or in future the automated sensors. I'm assuming that scientists will be taking a big data approach so that all valid data instances will help to provide the big picture?


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Blair MacKinnon Oct 12, 2017

We are working on an urban eco village and Agile Cloud prototyped our environmental data collection thoughts in an evening


Marty Taylor Oct 13, 2017

Excellent work keep it up Steven and good luck for the award. A platform that supports all community environmental initiatives is definitely needed.


Becky Wilson Oct 13, 2017

Kia ora Steven
It’s great you’re working on this issue of making data management more effective, useful and engaging for community groups. I have some questions to help the judges understand your idea better. How does your project differ from other databases available e.g. TrapNZ, Walk-the-Line and TrapIT? What is the innovation that will be a game-changer to for community conservation above the products already available? What specific functions will your system provide to better engage volunteers in conservation and support them to work more efficiently and effectively, as well as helping with reporting to funders? What kind of data will be collected and how will it be collated and shared?
Remember you can go back into your idea submission form and make changes to clarify these things at any time until the Awards close at midnight on Sunday.
Good luck!


Keith Salmon Oct 13, 2017

Hi Becky - do you mind if I answer some of these questions from the perspective of someone who has worked in the IT area since 1971 and in bush restoration groups and networks since 2007.

Over the last year, I've been part of a team called the Conservation Engagement Group which has been evaluating available systems that would make it easier for restoration coordinators to work with groups of people. We had presentations from the developers of Walk the Line and Trap.NZ - both good products to address a particular set of needs. But they don't deliver the wide range of functionality and data structures needed to engage with people and groups and to manage inter-related sets of data of any type from monitoring and controlling pests through to monitoring ecological health and others not yet thought of.

What attracted me to look further at Agile Cloud is that it is designed to be as generic as possible - allowing Steven to easiiy prototype new data collection pages on smart phones and desktops, provide flexible reports and to incorporate functionality such as emails to volunteer groups. A key feature I've not seen in any other pest management system is that Agile Cloud has data structures, editing pages and reports to manage groups of people and properties belonging to hierarchies of small street groups within wider neighbourhood groups. From my initial evaluation, I can see that it allows one to record that a person belongs to one or more of these local groups, and also to a bush restoration society and to an adhoc action group. Even commercially available customer relationship management systems I've worked with don't allow one to actually reflect these real world relationships as well as Agile Cloud can.

Being built on a model that allows you to record these real-life relationships about people and groups , means that the product will be well placed to move the Predator 2050 and other pest free goals forward in engaging with street groups and other place-based volunteer groups. It allows a group coordinator to contact members of the group and keep track of whether they are still active. And if a person changes their email address it only needs to be updated in one place - not in several spreadsheets or ad hoc systems. The design provides for privacy and security functions so that for example the coordinator of a suburb wide group can get reports about all the groups within their area while giving street group coordinators the ability to view and email only members of their own sub-group.

Because the system design and data design aims to be generic, Agile Cloud looks more likely to be able to allow the capture of a wide range of conservation related data than with systems which have been built in modules that focus on particular problems. Since I first started evaluating Agile Cloud as a candidate to replace a spreadsheet that we used to manage 400 moth plant instances, it's clear that the data capture form on a smart phone can be quickly prototyped to fine-tune the prompts and data validation to meet user needs. One can simply enter the word "Moth" or "Privet" and the system will add the scientific name of the plant. If one records a moth plant instance, you can record that only some of the seed pods were removed and a weed work record remains to prompt you to return to the site and complete the work. It is designed to allow you to record information about the infestation that would allow a coordinator to assign a set of easy sites for a volunteer to tackle or of difficult sites for a well-equipped contractor to tackle. And this is just an example of the benefits of a generic approach to design - any other particular requirements can be quickly prototyped to get you off the ground. And then as the understanding of the needs progress, the basics can be refined and improved functionality added.

My understanding is that the award would allow further development that would be a significant game-changer for the volunteer involvement and work management and reporting needed to leverage the community's investment in pest free projects.


Keith Salmon Oct 14, 2017

Regarding the need for the developer to show that he has taken feedback aboard, I can vouch for the fact that he has already being doing this very successfully in developing a prototype pest control module over recent months.


Steven MacLeod Oct 15, 2017

Hi Becky, you have great questions that require rather lengthy answers. I've added a document to this page for you and the judges to read. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it :) Steven


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Leighton Haliday Oct 13, 2017

Great work Steven - as an 30 year IT Exec - I appreciate the challenge is that its far more than just building an app or putting pins in a map - the challenge is bringing together layers of information in a single database to understand and manage an outcome. To have a healthy ecosystem ideally you need to track the weeds and the planting, the rats and the wetas and you need to understand and engage the people within that community to take ownership of their own back yards. Its a lot of data and you need a well architected engine which this solution appears to be, the maps and apps are easy once you have a good base level of layers of data. The hard bit is building what Steven has done.


Steven MacLeod Oct 13, 2017

Thanks very much Leighton. You've described it perfectly. There is no science without data, and the better the data, the better the science.

Essentially, what is needed is an Environmental ERP system. Except if we went down an SAP route, we'd all go broke waiting for them to finish it.

We recognised that if we wanted to improve our conservation values, then we needed to rethink how we designed information. We had to throw away 40 years of relational data theory and come up with the new design model. Which is what we've done. And yes, it was unbelievably hard and almost sent me batty. Innovation is a very hard lifestyle choice.


Lewis MacKinnon Oct 13, 2017

Agile Cloud is just what we need for our “Birds in the Burbs” project


Andrew Macdonald Oct 13, 2017

As an ecologist and GIS Analyst, Agile Cloud is a critical tool. I often have to work with lots of different datasets, on line data mixed with excel files. Agile Cloud imports all these files and converts them to a common format. I can then directly access the cleaned data based on my permissions and add my GIS speciality. There’s nothing else out there like this system and it really needs to be supported


Rosemary Marks Oct 13, 2017

Great idea


Ian Macdonald Oct 14, 2017

I am a photographer and a programmer who has played a leading role in conservation effort since I was part of the conservation effort to stop native forest destruction in the 70s and 80s. I am very familiar with Steven's ability and enthusiasm in designing data structures and applications that superbly cater for the complex issues of environmental knowledge.


Vicki Sargisson Oct 14, 2017

With the Agile Cloud system we in the South Titirangi Neighbourhood Network look forward to having an easy to use system for collecting and integrating a wide range of environmental data, whether in predator control, weed control, restoration planting or monitoring local streams. It will facilitate better coordination between street groups, sharing of information and enable us to plan where to most effectively invest our time and energy.


Gemma McGrath Oct 15, 2017

Hi Steven, do you think Agile Cloud would be suited in marine data too, or is mainly focussed on land based information and helping Tui mainly? With the marine mammal sightings app, we are also trying to connect with multiple community groups and have all available sightings data in one centralised and accessible place. Is there room for collaboration here? Thanks, Gemma


Steven MacLeod Oct 15, 2017

Hi Gemma, Tui high on Kowhai is creative license. I was out at Bethels beach a few weeks ago and the Tui were going mental on the Kowhai. I've heard they get drunk on it. It was a beautiful moment and made me realise what a predator free NZ would feel like.

We can record 110,000 species. Agile Cloud is an environmental information platform and is designed to record any type of data, knowing that whatever we think is needed today will change over time. The database must serve the science.

Keen to hear about your marine requirements. What happens on land effects the marine, which is why we already do harbour health.

Thanks for making contact, please email me on Steven@AgileCloud.com


Gemma McGrath Oct 15, 2017

Awesome Steven. will do. My email is aotearoa.dolphin@gmail.com. Looking forward to seeing how all these wonderful ideas can interact and progress.


Keith Salmon Oct 15, 2017

In Kaipatiki, there is a clean streams programme under way picking up on the techniques developed by Dr Kit Hustler for monitoring banded kokopu. I would hope that we can record stream quality data and native fish sightings in Agile Cloud too?


Steven MacLeod Oct 18, 2017

Hi keith, thanks for the question. We've already implemented freshwater monitoring and macro invertebrates. Its ready for use.


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Andy Reid Oct 15, 2017

Great Initiative and goes a long way to solving a number of problems that currently exist with a proliferation of many small databases.


Becky Wilson Oct 15, 2017

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone


Steven MacLeod Oct 15, 2017

Hi Becky, I've been thinking about your questions, which as you will see I've provided an (overly) lengthy answer to, my apologies as I didn’t have enough time to write a short answer. I woke up with one sentence in mind. The difference between the current systems and what we have developed is that the current systems are passive. They say, if you are collecting predator data, then you can record it here, which is of course useful and needed.

Agile Cloud is assembling a robust and sustainable infrastructure of all elements that are needed to develop predator free management communities. Suburb by Suburb, Street by Street, reserve by reserve and property by property. All the roles, instructions and engagement tools that are needed to pro-actively progress a predator fee NZ.


Dan Ducker Oct 17, 2017

Hey Steven! Great to see you up here! Just wondered if Agile Cloud might have the capability of being a game engine? I.e. do the back-end work for the weed game we're looking at developing further. (https://wwf-nz.crowdicity.com/post/434055). Thanks and good luck!


Steven MacLeod Oct 17, 2017

Hi Dan, yes indeed. In fact in the past week, we delivered a comprehensive weed management app for the phone with the business process of weed management driven from the desktop, this is currently going through user acceptance testing and will be live soon.

There are 3 options for War on Weeds. I've attached a set of screenshots showing how they might look for the different communities and cultures.

Option 1 is that we re-skin our existing app to your specification. There are basically only three components to a user experience. Language, graphics and layout, which can all be controlled by our design tool.

I'm very excited about the 4th screenshot. The green team is neighbours collaborating to create virtual fences. An area with a lot of predator maintenance but no kills becomes a virtual sanctuary.

A positive chew card (blue team) destroys the virtual sanctuary and the green team need to up their game to regain their sanctuary status. I've tried this on adults and young people and is very motivating for both.

Option 2 we provide with the API. You create the app user experience and we collect the data on your behalf. Option 3 is you create a stand alone app and we import the data. We strongly believe that different apps need to be developed for different communities and cultures but there has to be a data collective to bring all the data into one location.

Thanks for the question



Steven MacLeod Oct 17, 2017



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Chris Morrison Oct 20, 2017

Great initiative