The 6th Regional Development Australia Northern Inland Innovation gala awards dinner was held at Wests Leagues Club in Tamworth on Friday night (8/11/13). The overall Innovation of the Year Award went to Armidale-based ICT International, which included a $15,000 scholarship from The Sharemarket College.
"It is important that we recognise and promote how we are being innovative and what sets us apart. This fantastic awards program attracted 49 top quality entries from every major centre in the region and almost 140 people attended the awards night to hear their success stories," Chair of Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI), Mal Peters said.
ICT International is essentially scientists creating precision equipment for fellow scientists; technological solutions for soil, plant, water and environmental monitoring. Up to 20 percent of annual turnover over the past eight years has gone into research and design. ICT's innovations have transformed the business from an importer of soil and plant instrumentation to an exporter of its own. What has been developed by ICT is unique and demand is global, with exports to 45 countries each year. Staffing levels have grown from 6 to 21 in the past four years.
Their environmentally sealed, low-power consuming data logging units come in varied models for specific purposes, with internet connectivity and software for complex measuring and processing in the field can be found in Australian and Amazon mangroves, deserts in the Middle East and the Arctic permafrost. Remote data logging or transmission solutions are what truly set ICT's scientific devices apart. Managing Director, Dr Peter Cull said that the recognition means a great deal to his team. "This accolade is important for our business, particularly as they add credibility and a point of difference when starting a new overseas business relationship," he said.
The innovators recognised at the awards night ranged from Bindaree Beef to UNE, ITC Agriculture in Narrabri to local government (Tamworth Regional Council, Liverpool and Moree Plains Shire Councils). Local produce was presented to sponsors and MC, Jennifer Ingall (ABC radio New England North West Regional Content Manager). There was a presentation by the inspiring BackTrack Youthworks lads and a pair of working dogs in training. Guest Speakers were business coach, Greg Alder and 2012 Innovation of the Year recipient, Graham East from educational software developer, EdAlive.
RDA Northern Inland Executive Officer, Nathan Axelsson, described it as a significant night for the region's development, which highlighted the secrets of numerous high-achieving businesses and organisations throughout the region. "Whether we're talking about overcoming the tyranny of distance, creating a competitive edge or finding new markets, we need to incorporate innovation into everyday practice and get our positive stories out there."
The AgriFood Skills Australia 'Agriculture / Horticulture and Associated Services category' were…
• ICT International, of Armidale (category winner)
ICT International's innovations have transformed the business from an importer to an exporter of soil and plant instrumentation. Their range of products have niche demand for important work around the world.
• Paradise Fresh, of Tamworth
- A farm to home delivery service for local fresh produce - innovative approaches now include online marketing and retailing and a school rewards. The farm supplies 4 franchises, with 6 more opening soon.
• ITC Agriculture, of Narrabri
Producing its own high-quality parts, ITC Agriculture competes with high-end manufacturers. Their innovative coating enhances durability of heavy wear parts. They research, develop and innovate to better meet farmer's tool needs.
The Telstra Country Wide 'Tourism / Leisure and Related Services Category' were…
• Petersons Armidale Guesthouse & Winery (category winner)
The Petersons Armidale Guesthouse and Winery was already unique to the Armidale area, when it invested in the creation of a live concert venue, attracting top artists and thousands of visitors. The first "A Day on the Green" event in the region in March 2012 attracted 6,500 people from near and far, with over 7,000 attending in March this year.
• The New England Regional Art Museum
Innovative programs are ever evolving at NERAM, such as "Remembering with Art" - developed in association with the Home Nursing Group for those with dementia; and the inter-generational "Creating Memories" project.
• Tamworth Regional Council's Business & Events Directorate
This directorate is unique in local government. Innovative approaches to growing sporting, cultural and business event-based business have stemmed from the Country Music Festival. Directorate facilitated one-off and ongoing events have had major flow-one benefits.
The Sharemarket College Brisbane 'Professional and Retail Services Category' were…
• Liverpool Plains Shire Council - for the Tr@ceR mobile App (category winner)
The Liverpool Plains Shire Council's Tr@ceR mobile App and mobile mapping program increase efficiencies in the war on weeds. I.T. and weeds staff created income generating technology, in meeting in-house needs.
• Kylie Mitchell Designs, of Armidale
The unique Art House Gallery is a new pop-up gallery, selling art, as well as limited edition, distinctively designed, economical, compact and sustainable house plans. The new Gallery provides an experience of the innovative home - art integration.
• Moree Plains Shire Council Communications Department
Due to its remoteness, Moree Plains Shire Council identified a need to engage and communicate with constituents more effectively and efficiently. Facebook was the answer. An Avatar called "Maureen Plains" is the user-friendly online 'face' of the council.
The AusIndustry-Enterprise Connect 'Manufacturing and Engineering Category' were…
• Andromeda Industries, of Moonbi
Andromeda Industries manufactures plaited and woven steel cables for national and global markets. They also recycle rubber belts for a massive range of niche applications. A number of products are so innovative, they have a market monopoly.
• StarLogixs, of Deepwater (category winner)
An electronic innovator, StarLogixs designed a devise to ensure voltage consistency for remote Telstra NextG units. Addressing this technological challenge was a win for rural telecommunications and the business.
• Bindaree Beef, of Inverell
The McDonald Family's Bindaree Beef has developed a sustainability world-first for the red-meat industry. A Bio-Digester will breakdown waste and resultant bio-gas will replaced the coal boiler. The $46mil project attracted 50 percent Federal Government funding. A $2mil. pilot plant has been operating for almost a year.
The UNE Partnerships 'Research and Education Category' were…
• BackTrack Youthworks - Jobs Australia Enterprises Ltd
Since it began in Armidale in 2006, BackTrack has delivered a range of innovative programs aimed at helping troubled youth to focus their lives, re-connect with education or training and get work-ready. It has now been adapted to communities around the region.
• UNE Computer Science - for 'Smart Eye'
'Smart Eye' is a University of New England research project which aims to help older people to reside in their own homes longer. It uses embedded camera systems in a 'smart house' to determine if an unsafe situation has occurred and would then call for human intervention. It's a groundbreaking step.
• UNE - for "Integrated Degrees"
The University of New England has teamed up with TAFE New England to develop unique-to-Australia "Integrated Degrees" in AgriFood Systems and Health disciplines. Academic education and hands-on vocational training combine. Entry pathways are flexible. Student and industry needs are better catered for, as graduates will have improved job readiness.
Member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall presented six Highly Commended Awards – recipients have made an inspiring difference to their operation, community or industry or were just a whisker away from being a finalist in the judges’ eyes. The Regional Development Australia Northern Inland Highly Commended Awardees were:
• Tamworth Community College… for their delivery of the Tamworth Digital Enterprise Program to introduce the enormous potential of the NBN to drive productivity improvements and grow businesses in regional Australia. Congratulations to the Tamworth Community College.
• The Quirindi Rural Heritage Village, an 18 acre attraction designed to collect, preserve and restore artifacts that relate to the history, heritage and culture of the Liverpool Plains.
• McInnes Clothing Co from Narrabri – a one stop shop and old fashioned country store providing something for the whole family as well as a large range of work wear, with atmospheric flair.
• Spend in Glen, an innovative promotion created to encourage local shopping during the Christmas period which involved major prizes, Celtic Cash and clever newspaper and social media marketing.
• the Uralla Rivercare Group, for the Uralla Creeklands Walk; an educational and artistic creation meandering through the town of Uralla, allowing visitors to explore riparian zones as well as local shops and attractions. Years of work has achieved an environmentally sustainable outcome for the waterway, tourists and locals.
• Ewe Beaut Products from Armidale, for the engineering of a large-scale mobile shade out shelter – a unit that controls the climate and amount of rainfall a research crop trial can receive. Trials are currently underway with the University of Sydney in Narrabri, towards drought tolerant wheat. Congratulations to Ewe Beaut Products.
Further detail on category winners
Since it began in Armidale in 2006, BackTrack has delivered a range of innovative programs aimed at helping troubled youth to focus their lives, re-connect with education or training and get work-ready, towards a fulfilling life within a community. In Armidale, The BackTrack School opened this year, with an Education Department teacher supporting literacy and numerous learning two days a week, alongside the vocational training.
There are outreach programs in Glen Innes and Tenterfield and an independent program has been supported in Quirindi. In May this year, collaboration with the Tamworth Local Aboriginal Land Council secured a 3-year lease of "Trelawney Station" at Somerton as a venue for hands-on rural training for disengaged youth in Gunnedah and Tamworth. Innovative programs include Iron Man Welders, Ag Lads and Paws Up, wherein a teenager trains a working dog in high-jumping.
BackTrack programs have attracted attention from media, governments and a three-year research project is now underway. Flexibility, connectedness, mentoring and empowerment are central - participants make decisions concerning their program experience. Three equal funding streams flow from Government, local and philanthropic donations and income generated by the programs.
Close to 300 young people have been through the programs, with 87 percent going on to full-time employment or further education and training. BackTrack is expanding because it adapts to local communities.
StarLogixs, of Deepwater
In the village of Deepwater, StarLogixs has been creating and manufacturing electronic equipment to meet national and overseas industry needs for over 12 years. The design, development, production and technical staff training are all in-house. An automated printed circuit board system and high-tech testing ensures quality control.
Their latest innovation addressed a problem for Telstra, which has about 17,000 remote NextG units nationally, providing voice and data services to remote customers. Where mains power is available to charge the units' batteries, Telstra can draw power from the premises. The problem was voltage loss, which occurs in thin cables over long distances, with further loss variation due to changes in ambient temperature. StarLogixs developed a system that automatically compensates for voltage loss and controls peak charging current. An alarm was also devised to integrate with existing Telstra equipment, which sends a warning via the NextG network if the mains charging system stops working. StarLogixs innovations have included the control system for the Autobaler, LiveTesters, Cable Core Indicators and the GateKeeper System. Research and Development are ongoing aspects of StarLogixs.
Liverpool Plains Shire Council - for the Tr@ceR mobile App
The Liverpool Plains Shire Council's Tr@ceR mobile mapping program is a modern approach to nipping weed infestations in the bud. It captures data on types of weeds, infestation size and location trends, equipping inspectors with the best information for effective, strategic actions.
The Tr@ceR mobile App uses "Location Services" of a smart phone or tablet to capture weed infestation information in the field. The App integrates with the Mapping Program. It is simple matter of clicking on locations of data capture and the system provides landowner and property details, facilitating the generation of working council documents.
Revenue from the Tr@ceR mobile mapping funded the development of the next-gen Tr@ceR mobile App. IT staff worked with the end-user weeds inspectors. Inspection, data entry and report processing times have been significantly reduced.
The functionality, efficiency gains and adaptability of the in-house local council-developed mobile app has considerable potential in a number of areas. In the age of out-sourcing, it is extremely innovative for a rural council to generate income from specialised IT products.
Petersons Armidale Guesthouse & Winery
Established in the Hunter and Mudgee wine regions, Petersons' Armidale winery added a cooler climate vineyard option to the mix. Vines were planted in 1998. After two years of heritage-sensitive renovation, a century-old homestead had been transformed into a five-star guesthouse and function centre, providing a unique New England experience. Yester-year grandeur combined with modern luxuries and sophisticated catering. The heritage listed Stables were restored first, serving as an atmospheric cellar door tasting area.
The Petersons were keen to do something innovative for the local region, which also fostered exposure to, and connectedness with the winery and guesthouse. A natural amphitheatre below the historic gardens was cleared and an outdoor concert venue was created, with a audience capacity of over 9,000. The first "A Day on the Green" event in the region in March 2012 attracted 6,500 people from near and far, with over 7,000 attending in March this year. A lot of work went into development but the flow-on benefits have been considerable, for Armidale and the wider region, as well as for Petersons.
RDA Northern Inland Chair Mal Peters, ICT International's Susan and Peter Cull and Jill Rogers from The Sharemarket College.
AusIndustry Regional Manager Tim Cotter, Raymond McLaren and Ninna Douglas from Andromeda Industries in Moonbi, with Brian Sherwood from Enterprise Connect.
Liverpool Plains Shire Council's Tr@cer innovation won the 'Professional and Retail Services Category', IT Manager Mark Daly, Weeds Officer Mike Whitney and Mayor Ian Lobsey received the gong from Graeme Rogers of The Sharemarket College.
The Telstra Business Centre's Chris Ash, with Judy and Savannah Peterson from Tourism/Leisure winner, Petersons Armidale Guesthouse and Winery.
UNE Partnerships Corporate Services Director, Ian Brown with UNE Academic Registrar, Eve Woodberry and Director of TAFE NSW New England Institute, Alison Wood. [Research and Education finalists for new integrated degrees].