RDA Northern Inland Chair Mal Peters with UNE Precision Agriculture Research Group’s Professor David Lamb, winner of the RDA Northern Inland Innovation of the Year (and the NSW Trade and Investment 'Research and Education Category') for the Smart Farm.
The 7th Regional Development Australia Northern Inland Innovation awards dinner was held in the Max Centre Ballroom, Moree on Friday night (7/11/14). The overall RDA Northern Inland Innovation of the Year Award went to the UNE Precision Agriculture Research Group for the NBN connected Smart Farm. Among the dignitaries in attendance were the Member for Parkes Mark Coulton, Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries, Member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall and members of the RDA Northern Inland Committee.
"It is important that we recognise and promote how we are being innovative and what sets us apart. This fantastic awards program attracted 65 top quality entries from throughout the region and 110 people attended the awards night to hear their success stories," Chair of RDA Northern Inland, Mal Peters said.
A range of projects by the multidisciplinary Precision Agriculture Research Group and their partners has attracted over $7million dollars over the past 12 years. That work has culminated in the “UNE SMART Farm”. It is a national demonstrator site for trialing and demonstrating farm-related technologies in action.
The SMART Farm Precinct is being built to further the physical and remote demonstration experience. This innovation involves developing tools and approaches that facilitate precise on-farm data gathering, then the management of farming variables, like crop, pasture and livestock performance, in response to this information. “With high-speed broadband, we will see new levels of precise information and efficiencies in Agriculture,” Professor David Lamb said.
Moree Boomerangs Head Coach, Chris Binge, Boomerangs President, Mitchell Johnson, Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton and Boomerangs Secretary, Kylie Benge
The inaugural Innovative Community Contribution award went to the Moree Boomerangs and was accepted by President, Mitchell Johnson. They have come back in a big way, on and off the field. The club has been identifying needs in the community and acting to make a difference, from the anti-domestic violence and Good Sports programs to a deb ball and the $1,787mil. NSW Government funding, secured in partnership with the Moree Plains Shire Council for a sporting oval upgrade.
RDA Northern Inland Executive Officer, Nathan Axelsson, described it as a significant night for the region's development, adding that it was great to see representatives of the Innovation Awards’ supporters, AgriFood Skills Australia, AusIndustry, the University of New England, Telstra and Trade and Investment NSW, come along. "If you’re looking to grow and thrive, innovation is vital. It is important to applaud those positive stories and get them out there to inspire others,” he said. “It was also intriguing to hear the business forecasts from our Guest Speaker, Futurist, Professor Tony Sorensen.”
Finalists in the AgriFood Skills Australia 'Agriculture / Horticulture and Associated Services category'
Bald Rock Beef Jerky, of Tenterfield (Winner)
Combining age-old and contemporary concepts, Bald Rock Beef Jerky had humble beginnings on the family farm “Bald Rock” near Tenterfield. Dan Ford’s product is paddock to consumer, sourcing beef from his family’s and neighbouring farms. Developing his unique recipe and method took time and production began in the home kitchen, until that was outgrown. Dan's marketing has been highly innovative and effective. The commercial launch of Bald Rock Beef Jerky occurred in early 2014. Through the Kickstarter crowd funding website, the initiative attracted funding of $26,700, due to Dan’s genuine and enthusiastic pitch. This was the most successful Kickstarter project of its type in Australia but the seed funding donated was nothing compared to the marketing outcomes – the online word-of-mouth spread the message far and wide. A retailing website and responsive Facebook profile have expanded business and brand recognition. Bald Rock Beef Jerky has been exported to 27 countries and is forecasted to yield a turnover of more than $500,000 in the current financial year.
Tamworth’s East West EnviroAg, represented by Operations Manager Stephanie Cameron, with Regional Development Manager for AgriFood Skills Australia, Wendy Agar.
East West Enviro Ag, of Tamworth
Providing a full range of geotechnical, agricultural, and environmental testing and analyses, East West Enviro Ag of Tamworth has used innovations to increase its sustainability and productivity, as well as delivering better client services. Their focus on innovation and business philosophies are innovative and produce results. One example was a geotechnical soil core remover, designed by the lab’s team to meet a need.
The Walcha Dairy
The Walcha Dairy was established six years ago, with innovatively intelligent design. The large scale operation produces 7-8 million litres of milk, with an annual turnover of four million dollars per annum. Its location means massive freight savings to major markets. Innovation is a strong focus. The Walcha Dairy Terminal will support the growth of the operation and the industry in the region.
Finalists in the Telstra 'Retail, Tourism and Leisure Category'
Nundle Business Tourism and Marketing Group, represented by Megan Trousdale and presented by Telstra’s Wendy Wilks.
Nundle Business Tourism and Marketing Group (Winner)
The Nundle Business Tourism and Marketing Group is a collaboration of 21 small business and community organisations, which promotes Nundle as a tourism destination. A coordinated marketing plan was developed and executed, including a community website, with social media actively used for marketing in the small town.
The “Nundle, why rush it?” logo was created and the branding strategy was rolled out, with the logo attached to marketing across a wide range of media formats. Consistent branding was used by organisers of 15 annual events. Innovative approaches have seen the 300 population community funded with a $50,000 marketing budget.
Collaboration has resulted in Nundle outperforming regional NSW as a whole. The innovative level of co-operative marketing has seen an average business increase of up to 10 percent, while visitors to events have increased 25 percent and attraction visits, 19 percent. Employment is up by over 11 percent and an increase of 1.4million dollars has been achieved in the local economy.
Andrew Parker of Uralla Arts with Telstra’s Wendy Wilks.
Uralla Arts began with The Uralla Story Project, involving audio from 80 locals telling their stories. The New England North West Soundtrails mobile phone App contains stories of three locations: Uralla, Warialda and Myall Creek. The free App is supported by a website and GPS triggers the spoken narrative about the location automatically, connecting the visitor with a community story.
Moree Plains Shire Mayor, Katrina Humphries, with Julie Rushby of Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre and Telstra’s Wendy Wilks.
Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre
The Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre has innovatively expanded its facilities and services. It is now a “Wellness Hub”. The Moree Artesian Wellness and Day Spa offers beauty and therapeutic massage services, a gym (with a personal trainer), a function room, yoga and pilates classes, physical rehabilitation services and more.
Liverpool Plains Shire Council, represented by Robert Hunt (GM), Cr. Ian Lobsey and Andrew Hope with Telstra’s Wendy Wilks
The Liverpool Plains Shire Council
The First Fleet Memorial Gardens at Wallabadah were instigated by First Fleet descendant and stone mason Ray Collins. This is the only memorial in Australia, listing those who came to Australia on the First and Second Fleets – that uniqueness means cultural heritage and tourism outcomes. 11 circular gardens represent the ships of the First Fleet, within which are 80 sandstone tablets with lists of names. The Second Fleet gardens have 50 tablets. Donations have eased the burden of this project to the Council.
Finalists in the University of New England 'Professional and Government Services Category'
Adrian Wood of Armidale-based Whitehack and presented by UNE's Anita Taylor
Whitehack, of Armidale (Winner)
Not all computer hackers revel in digital vandalism, theft and other crimes. Whitehack is a small but growing Armidale business that is helping clients to beat the hackers at their own game.
Using computer hacking skills for the good of clients, Whitehack is an IT security consultancy offering an innovative 'ethical hacking' service - only three such operations exist in NSW. Employing two cyber threat analysts in the USA has made 24/7 support cost-effective for the fledgling operation. Importantly, this approach can mean that security and maintenance work can occur during off-peak or non-business hours, minimising impact on the client. It has also broadened the client-base of Whitehack. The timezones of all four staff will enable full team focus on projects as Whitehack expands into China soon. Remotely connecting to a carbon-neutral server in the US enables the team to work together, from anywhere.
Responsiveness is vital and Whitehack has impressed its clients. Time is money for a downed commercial website; in one case, a client with a large e-commerce website was losing around $300,000 for every hour their site was down after being hacked. Further growth and job creation in Armidale are planned.
The Community Mutual Groups’ Darren Schaeffer with UNE’s Anita Taylor.
The Community Mutual Group
The "Heart of Our Community" website is a unique approach that furthered the Community Mutual Group's engagement with members and communities. The site is an 'ideas incubator' wherein ideas for communities and solutions from locals are posted. Ideas can be 'liked' or commented on. In some cases, ideas and support of them have resulted in seed funding from the financial institution.
Moree Plains Shire Mayor, Katrina Humphries, with GM David Aber and UNE’s Anita Taylor
Moree Plains Shire Council
Council, in collaboration with the Moree Water Ski Club has developed the Moree Evergreen Precinct Water Ski Lakes project. A water park, consisting of five water storage ponds will use spent water from the artesian spa industry. The health of the Mehi River will benefit and a drawcard sport and recreation amenity will be created.
Finalists in the NSW Trade and Investment 'Research and Education Category'
UNE Smart Farm representatives Aron Murphy and David Lamb with the Member for Barwon, Kevin Humphries
The Precision Agriculture Research Group, UNE (Winner)
The multidisciplinary UNE-based Precision Agriculture Research Group has broken new ground in the development and application of technology for agriculture. Since inception in 2002, the Group has attracted over $7 million dollars for agricultural research, ranging from livestock to cropping and viticulture.
The NBN-connected “UNE SMART Farm” is the culmination of 12 years of Precision Agriculture Research. It is a national demonstrator site for trialling and demonstrating farm-related technologies in action. What has been achieved and the prospective industry advancements could have local, national and global benefits into the future.
This innovation involves developing tools and approaches that facilitate precise on-farm data gathering, then the management of farming variables, like crop, pasture and livestock performance, in response to this information. The “SMART Farm” is bringing agriculture into the information age, with proven technologies of practical relevance. A host of other projects are cutting-edge and link in with additional properties and partner businesses and organisations. The SMART Farm Precinct will be opened in the near future to further the physical and remote demonstration experience.
Poultry CRC representative Mick Warner with Member for Barwon, Kevin Humphries
The Poultry CRC
The Poultry Co-operative Research Centre has worked to improved environmental and financial sustainability in ethical poultry production. The Poultry CRC and UNE collaborated to produce a world-first 'Net-Energy' system, involving innovative chambers, designed and constructed at UNE, for precise analysis of the energy outcomes of a range of meat chicken diets.
Community College Northern Inland representatives, Bronwyn Clinch (Executive Officer), Julieanne Farrell and Nicole Scholl with Member for Barwon, Kevin Humphries
Community College – Northern Inland
The Community College Northern Inland began in 1981, is headquartered in Barraba and has over 7,500 enrolments annually. The registered training organisation has been innovative, particularly in response to community needs. A mobile engineering trailer was specially designed and built for delivering training to remote areas. Innovative approaches and partner organisations have made a difference with disengaged youths.
UNE/TAFE New England’s Integrated Degrees representatives, Maureen Chapman (UNE) and Lyn Rickard (TAFE NE), with Member for Barwon, Kevin Humphries
UNE / TAFE New England for "Integrated Degrees"
UNE and TAFE New England have tailored unique-to-Australia "Integrated Degrees" in the health and community services sector. Industry research, an online distance education focus, flexible entry pathways, together with the dual sector academic education and hands-on work-based learning, all combine to appeal to a broader prospective student pool and deliver better outcomes.
Finalists in the Australian Government's Department of Industry's AusIndustry 'Manufacturing and Engineering Category'
Paddy Rice of ISU Solutions with AusIndustry’s Brian Sherwood
ISU Solutions, of Armidale (Winner)
Armidale's ISU solutions has created Sam - a technological linking device that facilitates interfacing and connectivity among a wide range of hardware and software applications. Sam is a single destination for purchasing, managing and monetising everything. The multi-purpose functionality of the technology puts it a generation ahead. Refining Sam for customised data collection and management has opened up new possibilities across a broad range of areas and industries, from rubbish bin tracking for councils to farm management, such as livestock tracking and data collation, as well as remote equipment operation.
The internet is being used to interact with, control and gather data from an ever growing list of devices. The Sam platform is a universal connectivity and management device for efficiently working and living with 'the internet of everything'.
Evolutionary product development has seen ISU Solutions' electronic devices becoming progressively smaller. They are manufacturing their own electronic devices and have demonstrated the capacity to inventively adapt and manufacture the Sam platform and IT applications, as tailored solutions.
Jena Glover, John Kurko and Dan Stephens (Director) of Regional Architects, with AusIndustry’s Brian Sherwood
Regional Architects of Armidale
Regional Architects have shown innovative architects exist locally. Following market research, they developed a new seniors' housing model, which will reduce developer and occupier costs, while also being a healthier option, enabling residents to live in their own home for longer. The pioneering 40 plus village of independent living units will not need external power, water, sewerage, heating or cooling. Residency begins in early 2015.
Eastview Estate, of Uralla
Eastview Estate is home to the region's first distillery and craft brewery. Online marketing and sales have been successful. There's a restaurant, function centre, two bars and tours. Dobson's Distillery has achieved national pre-eminence with its unique Gin. The process uses nearby Kentucky Roses and Austral Herbs. 26 other products are produced, including wine, sources, beer, liqueur, brandy and whiskey, which has gained international recognition.
Highly Commended Awards
Graham and Rosemary Moore of Moore Venison with Member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall.
Moore Venison, at Wellingrove near Glen Innes is unique in the region. It has achieved relatively rapid growth in its fallow deer farming operation, in terms of both herd numbers and markets. This has involved passionately promoting the product and innovative uses of it, from salami to prime cuts of fresh venison. Using a professional guide, deer hunting is the latest innovation. Hunting sport has made tourism another aspect of this agricultural business. Hunters have come from abroad and throughout Australia.
Jay Lynch and Dwone Jones of 360 Fitness Club with Member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall
360 Fitness Club, Tamworth
The 360 Fitness in Tamworth has long been a progressive business, actively seeking and introducing the latest, innovative programs. In a mutually beneficial business model, 360 Fitness worked with Tamworth Regional Council to address a community need for an indoor aquatic facility. Once built, such facilities can have prohibitive running costs for councils but 360 Fitness made this project happen for Tamworth, as it will run it as a viable business. The facility adds a raft of aquatic wellness activities and services to the 360 Fitness Club’s extensive offerings.
The Commercial Boutique Hotel, Tenterfield
Responding to local and visitor demand, an art-deco 1940s country pub was transformed to offer 8 luxury rooms and a craft beer & wine bar, serving up local produce. The approach of this hospitality offering is to be a venue worth visiting, to help make Tenterfield a destination. A niche was identified and filled, with community benefits.
Eliesha Walker and Cody Orchard of Namoi River Meats with Member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall
Namoi River Meats
Gunnedah’s Namoi River Meats is home to more than just your slicing, dicing, tenderising butchers. Their value-adding and specialisations and innovative. They have the largest range of gluten-free products in the area and the only in-store smokehouse, producing cured hams, bacon and small goods. There are also award-winning sausages, gourmet easy meals and handmade pies (cooked in-store).
Professor Cynthia Stuhlmiller and Joe Miller representing UNE/Coledale Student Led Clinic with Member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall
The UNE/Coledale Student-led Clinic
With a unique integrated model of care, this collaboration between UNE Nursing, Hunter New England Health and NSW Justice Health addresses community needs on multiple levels, while providing important vocational experience to the volunteering students. The clinic is increasing student initiative and engagement with an indigenous and lower socio-economic community while providing better inter-agency collaboration and health outcomes for that community.
Rachel Price and Aaron Werts of Enactus UNE with Member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall
The global Enactus organisation promotes community engagement among university students. The Enactus, UNE has really made a difference in the region. The “Farming Futures” focused on farmer education about sustainable management, then post-university agricultural careers. The Minimbah Project identified a need to facilitate birth certificates for Aboriginal people, beginning with the Minimbah school (where 95 percent of students did not have one), they instigated a campaign for free and automatic birth certificates. Enactus is an innovatively hands-on approach to producing resourceful, socially responsible leaders.
Danny Middleton and Robert Walters of Best Employment with Member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall
BEST Employment, Inverell
Innovative strategic partnerships have helped Best Employment to address barriers to employment achieve positive change and social inclusion, particularly for the disadvantaged in the region. Low income energy efficiency and anti-graffiti programs have been in collaboration with three councils. The Crossing the Divide project is a hands-on education and training program for troubled Aboriginal youth, with inspiring results. The BEST Food Garden is another partnership that has yielded positive community outcomes.
Home Nursing Group
The Home Nursing Group began in Armidale and services the entire region, with over 75 nursing staff employed. The aged-care sector is moving towards “consumer-directed care” and this home-grown innovator is already there. Clients and stakeholders are extensively engaged with and consulted to refine service provision. A focus of well-being led to two innovative programs, in partnership with the New England Regional Art Museum: “Remembering with Art” and “Creating Memories”.
Moree Plains Shire Council representatives, Mayor Katrina Humphries, Mark Connolly (EDO), Deputy Mayor Sue Price and GM David Aber with Member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall
Moree Plains Shire Council for The Moree Gateway Project
The Moree Gateway Project is to be an iconic entry to south Moree. The pro-active and progressive Moree Plains Shire Council is creating its own economic stimulus, while ensuring the aesthetic enhances the experience of Moree. The Council is transforming a 50 hectare site to accommodate bulky goods, hospitality and vehicular businesses, as well as truck stops or service stations. It is hoped that this highway fronting hub will maintain commercial benefits for Moree from the Newell Highway, once the bypass is completed.