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Northern Inland Inovation Awards 2015

The 2015 Northern Innovation Awards were the celebrated with a gala dinner at the Glen Innes Services Club on Friday the 20th of November.

The event was attended by over 130 people, from Mungindi to the Liverpool Plains and across to Tenterfield. Guest speaker was UNE's Professor David Lamb, whose Smart Farm project won the 2014 Innovation of the Year in Moree. It was an extremely competitive awards program, with more than 60 entries received; each being a positive, commendable story.

Awards were presented for Innovation for the Year, Innovative Community Contribution and six categories:

 

The 2015 Northern Inland Innovation awards were proudly supported by the following sponsors:

 

Innovation of the Year

Lively Linseed Products

After 150 years of farming "Plain Camp" in the black soil plains near Mullalley, the Donoghues' decision to grow linseed and value-add with Lively Linseed Products was so innovative that they have essentially pioneered a health food product.

Linseed is not a common crop in the region and generally grown for the Omega 3 in linseed oil. Jacqui Donoghue has had to discover a great deal, from the challenges of linseed growing to how to mill it, with its oily properties.

Lively Linseed went from growing a niche commodity to also being the manufacturer, distributor and marketer of nutritious milled linseed products, which range from course flour and breakfast cereals to biscuits. The health benefit packed products are sold throughout Australia and to high-end Asian supermarkets.

Ground linseed products such as the biscuits baked at Watsons Kitchen in Narrabri, are not only highly nutritious, they also suit niche consumer markets. They are high in fibre and fatty acids while being gluten free.

Growth in demand for the innovative range of seven different Lively Linseed Products has meant linseed is now sourced from other nearby farmers and local professionals have gained business.

Innovative Community Contribution Award

Shenhua Watermark - Gunnedah Meals on Wheels

The Shenhua Meals on Wheels initiative commenced in 2012. By 2015, 23 of the 26 Shenhua Watermark staff had become involved, with half on permanent roster and half on a call-up roster to deliver meals to senior citizens. That’s a commendable 83 percent of the workforce contributing to the Gunnedah community, in an innovative approach to community contribution and integration.

This is a multicultural, mining company Meals on Wheels first. The company has also signed up to the important Gunnedah Meals on Wheels buddy program and funded equipment and facilities.

Health, Aged-Care and Disability Services

Sponsored by Prime Super

Winner: McLean Care

Beginning as a simple convalescent home in 1953, McLean Care has grown into one of the largest aged and community care providers in Northern Inland NSW. Servicing over 800 older people, across and area of 100,000 square kilometres, it employs more than 300 people and has a $19.5 million turnover. Inverell based McLean Care is using innovative approaches to improve and broaden the reach of service delivery.

The Bush Compass Programme was developed and implemented almost a year ago. Skype technology has been supplied to clients, incorporating their television. Physiotherapists can then work with clients in remote locations. These clients can receive individual service or participate in a group session at the McLean Care Inverell Wellness Centre from the comfort of their own lounge room. The Bush Compass innovation already sees McLean Care providing support services to clients across a 300km radius. It is the first aged-care provider in the region to extend services to clients who could not otherwise readily access them due to their health, mobility or isolated location.

McLean Care has become a leader in the harnessing of technology to deliver remote services to older clients that improve their quality of life and health outcomes. Participation in its wellness programme has increased by 30 percent. McLean care is now connecting its multifaceted facilities and services with remote homes around the region, through Bush Compass and the local community, through a recently established CBD office.

Finalist: The North West Cancer Centre

The North West Cancer Centre Radiation Oncology Unit in Tamworth innovatively responded to the issue of patient anxiety about what to expect during treatment. Verbal discussion had not been sufficient, due to the complex concepts. Staff gave their time to create in-house videos to better explain procedures to patients and reduce anxiety in them and their families. In addition to real-life footage, "Pearl" 3D visualisation software - which is used for teaching, was used to educate patients - for the first time anywhere. Videos for different types of cancer treatments were produced, then provided online or on DVD.

Finalist: Northern Mental Health Emergency Coordination Centre

The Northern Mental Health Emergency Coordination Centre is an innovative response to a growing regional need. It provides the region with 27/7 telephone access to people who are directly or indirectly experiencing mental health issues. It also advises rural health and emergency services departments. The innovative service will soon offer tele-health or video-linked consultations with its mental health professionals.

Highly Commended: House With No Steps

Highly Commended award to House With No Steps. An Employee Voice Survey identified mental health pressures on the staff of this large disability services provider due to the demanding nature of the work. Employees and their direct family can now access the House With No Steps Employee Assistance Program; this is a free counselling service to assist with the management of work and non-work related issues. There are even Laughter Yoga workshops at the Armidale HQ, three times a week and external programs are also utilised.

Agriculture / Horticulture and Associated Services

Sponsored By: Best Employment

Winner: Lively Linseed Products

After 150 years of farming "Plain Camp" in the black soil plains near Mullalley, the Donoghues' decision to grow linseed and value-add with Lively Linseed Products was so innovative that they have essentially pioneered a health food product.

Linseed is not a common crop in the region and generally grown for the Omega 3 in linseed oil. Jacqui Donoghue has had to discover a great deal, from the challenges of linseed growing to how to mill it, with its oily properties.

Lively Linseed went from growing a niche commodity to also being the manufacturer, distributor and marketer of nutritious milled linseed products, which range from course flour and breakfast cereals to biscuits. The health benefit packed products are sold throughout Australia and to high-end Asian supermarkets.

Ground linseed products such as the biscuits baked at Watsons Kitchen in Narrabri, are not only highly nutritious, they also suit niche consumer markets. They are high in fibre and fatty acids while being gluten free.

Growth in demand for the innovative range of seven different Lively Linseed Products has meant linseed is now sourced from other nearby farmers and local professionals have gained business.

Finalist: Carmyle Veterinary Services

Carmyle Veterinary Services offers an innovative level of world-leading horse breeding options. Innovative technology is used and techniques in equine breeding, such as embryo transfer and epididymal sperm freezing make it possible to breed from top performing horses while they are still competing or suddenly deceased. Carmyle Vets run over 200 donor and surrogate mares in the Quipolly property, so progressive approaches to maximise pasture performance have been undertaken.

Finalist: Livestock Lures

Spike and Kirsty are farmers whose innovation is remarkable in its simplicity and effectiveness. Life-sized pictures of herding livestock, such as sheep, encourage that type of animal into a desired location, such as a shearing shed - due to the herd mentality. Patent pending Livestock Lures do not remove the need for dogs but do increase efficiency and reduce stress on livestock and handlers.

Highly Commended: Young Aggies

Attracting and retaining young professionals in Moree is a critical issue in this region, particularly in the North West and especially in agricultural occupations. Young Aggies is an example of initiative and innovation. Young agricultural professionals in Moree enjoy a better social life and professional pride, thanks to Young Aggies.

Retail, Tourism and Leisure

Sponsored by Telstra Store Inverell

Winner: Why Leave Town Promotions

Narrabri locals, Ashley Watt and Justin Smith started Why Leave Town Promotions to develop and conduct programs that support businesses in their home town. In 2008, demand saw Brad Graham join the team and now a full-time Program Manager has had to be employed.

Why Leave Town launched their unique gift card program in Narrabri in 2010. The shop locally initiative was so well received that it became the sole focus of the venture.

Up to $1,000 is loaded onto the gift cards by their purchasers and can only be spent in participating stores. The loading and use of the cards is via EFTPOS. To date, well over half a million dollars has been loaded onto the Why Leave Town Network. That's a lot of retail spending retained in regional communities.

Why Leave Town gift cards are such a pro-active step in encouraging locals to shop locally that the innovation is now helping about a dozen communities throughout eastern Australia, including four north-west towns. More regional centres are signing up and being launched regularly.

Why Leave Town Promotions tailor promotional campaigns for each community that signs up for the gift cards. This innovative idea is making a big difference and is also a sustainable enterprise.

Finalist: Moore Venison

Moore Venison was innovative when they diversified a traditional New England grazing farm business into the region's only venison producing agribusiness. Now, they have diversified into the tourism sector, targeting hunters who seek a complete, traditional hunting experience, complete with dressing and consuming their kill. Game hunters have come from all over Australia and overseas.

Finalist: Boggabri Drovers' Campfire

The Boggabri Drovers' Campfire is a successful, unique tourism event. With dinky-die innovations like showers for campers converted from horse floats, it celebrates and exudes the quirky and warm country hospitality that the name suggests. It has innovatively catered to a niche tourism market, attracted over $260,000 in funding, massively boosted return visitor numbers - and community pride along the way.

Highly Commended: New England Regional Art Museum

This cultural landmark is the custodian of over 5,000 artworks, of significance to Australia’s cultural heritage. A new innovation is helping to meet the cost of that responsibility. An Adopt an Artwork initiative has attracted donations, strengthened community ties with the art museum and attracted Government funds.

Professional and Government Services

Sponsored by UNE

Winner: Whitehack

Whitehack is an ethical hacking or IT security consultancy that is based in Armidale and is innovatively serving clients around the world. The latest innovation from Whitehack was in response to the worldwide problem of detecting breaches. Traditional IT security options like conventional firewalls generally do not help, once a breach has actually occurred. So, Whitehack developed a security operations tool suite and operations centre that dramatically increases the chance of detecting and stopping an attack on a network.  The suite of tools can be run on its own accompanying custom operating system, so deployments can be done on a customer's network without any downtime or interruption. All of this is centrally monitored from here in Armidale.

Many aspects are world-leading in their innovative approach, such as the use of “doppleganger” servers, which mirror client’s servers in order to trick hackers into connecting with them, or other cunning techniques including dummy webpages that only hackers can find which can geolocate them.

Whitehack active defence applications and network monitoring creations have been developed to function on a variety of operating systems and platforms, including websites and web applications.

The Whitehack approach is also innovative in the immediacy of their response and how they have achieved that, while being extremely cost-effective, relative to like competition, globally. This was achieved by integrating with other existing security platforms for ease of use.

Finalist: Glen Innes Severn Council

Glen Innes Severn Council’s “Off stream storage” and the quarry Business, known as “Glen Innes Aggregates”, are innovative wins. Council firstly identified the opportunity to purchase the profitable hard rock quarry and continuing the operation of this well-established business, and secondly, to use the old quarry pits to store a large amount of water, a visionary and innovative project. The quarry is strategically located close to the Beardy Waters raw water supply, electricity and the location of the water treatment plant. Pits are deep and evaporation is less of a concern. Glen Innes Severn Council has now secured a water supply of up to 2.5 years after the Beardy Waters have stopped flowing compared to five months previously.

Finalist: Guyra Shire Council

For a council of its size and resources, Guyra Shire’s community communication and engagement tools are impressively innovative. The Council’s online community consultation portal, myGUYRA.com, and mobile App were in-house creations. The App can be used to pay rates, make an enquiry or read Council news.

Manufacturing and Engineering

Sponsored by Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Winner: Irritek

Located just north of Moree, Irritek is a family owned business that began over 20 years ago. Through innovative design, precision, expert installation and service, they have become a major efficiency enhancing infrastructure provider for irrigators throughout Australia. They custom-design, manufacture and install Irritek channel gates, check valves, trash elevators and pump stations.

Irritek's innovative channel gate design and enhanced features are a source of pride. Created in response to demand for an easy to use, cost-effective irrigation channel product, Irritek's channel gates have evolved to the point that they are now considered to be the number one option, in terms of quality, durability and affordability, on a national level. Recognition of their innovation and reliability have seen them move beyond agriculture, to Government and mining clients. They range from 600mm to three metres in diameter and are manufactured from heavy duty, galvanised steel.

Channel gates (or water valves), regulate the flow of water. Reliable and strong channel gates facilitate maximum water efficiencies. Features that Irritek have tailored to Australian conditions include more durable, stainless steel gate rollers, a gate mast indicator (which indicates the height of a submerged gate) and a two inch mast thread.

Home-grown design, engineering and boiler maker expertise has resulted in demand for Irritek products being widespread, resulting in a considerable contribution to the economy and reputation of Moree. Their innovation with and refinement of irrigation channel gates has made a positive sustainability impact on Australian agriculture.

Finalist: Teys Australia, Tamworth

Teys Australia Tamworth is one of six ultra-modern beef processing facilities operated by the company across the Eastern Seaboard. It has 450 employees and processes 850 head of cattle per day. Responsive management encourages staff development, talent empowerment, corporate social responsibility and innovation.

A tangible innovation at Teys Australia Tamworth was a remarkable example of in-house ingenuity vastly improving previously accepted design and processes. The long-existing crash gates have been refined with inventive flair by the resourceful maintenance team at Teys Tamworth. The result is the appropriately gentler sounding "bump gate".

Traditionally, "crash gates" were manually opened and closed behind the cattle. The maintenance team added a gas strut to replace the existing spring system and an air cylinder, enabling remote operation of the new bump gates. Following trials, the team added ultra sonic sensors and a two-position solenoid valve, allowing free-flowing animal movement through the gates. Then the bumper gate arms were slowed down. Risks associated with contact between gates, cattle and stock handlers were all but removed.

Benefits include improved workplace health and safety, meat quality for customers, animal welfare outcomes, production line productivity and overall, a multi-faceted positive impact on the bottom line.

Finalist: Boss Fabrication & Design

Boss Fabrication & Design or Boss Fab of Armidale has achieved impressive growth (to a million dollar turnover) in just two years of operation, due to their innovative range of services in metal fabrication and design, as well as their preparedness to take on jobs and clients, regardless of type, complexity or size. Capacities, equipment and expertise scope are considered unique in the region. In-house invented heritage scroll and iron work equipment address a regional need.

Finalist: Wholegrain Milling Company Pty Ltd

The Wholegrain Milling Company at Gunnedah fuses age-old and modern flour mill equipment. The supplier of certified organic milled flour has innovatively prepared for the future, when there may not be a reliable supply of certified organic grains. Certified Sustainable grain and flour from Wholegrain Milling continues to capitalise on contemporary market demands.

Highly Commended: Santos

Highly Commended for the Leewood Ponds. Two years of design and development resulted in scientifically advanced, secure and sustainable storage ponds for the saline by-product of CSG extraction and exploration. The 600 megalitre produced water and brine management ponds south of Narrabri features an impervious clay basement topped with a bentonite sealing layer. This is then overlaid by the first layer of the pond liner. A geomesh layer between these ensures an unlikely leak is directed back into the pond. There’s even an alarm triggering leak detection system.

Research and Education

Sponsored by Northern Tablelands Local Land Services

Winner: Backtrack Youth Works

BackTrack Youth Works provides an innovative interventionist and alternative education and training pathway for marginalised and disadvantaged youth. Today, BackTrack operates full-time, with a modest proportion of funding being Government derived. Among the recent innovations are BackTrack's school, its engagement with researchers to further understandings of alternative educational approaches and the level of collaborations and partnerships that make BackTrack possible and even lead to additional income streams.

Innovative programs like PawsUp, which sees participants training working dogs to high jump, teaching them life-lessons, while building respect for themselves and others. The BackTrack School now teaches literacy and numeracy, while AgLads and Ironman Welders show participants the rewards of working on tangible projects, as they gain certified qualifications in agriculture and metal fabrication. Over 500 youths have participated in BackTrack programs and 87 percent of them have gone on to employment, further education or training.

After recognising the potential of research to influence government policy, BackTrack negotiated partnerships with researchers from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Council (NDARC) at the University of New South Wales, the University of New England and the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI).

BackTrack research has resulted in the world’s first evaluation of the economic benefits of a community-based, multi-component intervention for disadvantaged young people and created the world’s first model of integration of research into the routine intake and review procedures used for participants.

Finalist: New England TechFest

New England TechFest was a unique-to-the-region event, inaugurated by North Armidale Rotary Club this year. While it showcased a diverse range of technologies for the consumer, business and enterprise markets, it also sought to raise awareness of these technologies and provided educational forums. Providing computer and IT know-how at all levels, even beginners; it is an innovative way of maximising the benefits from the interest that the event generates.

Finalist: The Australian Cotton Research Institute

Transgenic cotton reduced chemical use in cotton farming but only chewing insects were affected. The Australian Cotton Research Institute's Biopesticides and Integrated Pest Management unit has investigated plant extracts and various naturally occurring fungi that act as a parasite of insects. Sucking pests such as aphids can cause significant damage but so too can synthetic pesticides, which also harm beneficial insects. Sero-X - a semiochemical or biological control and a fungal biopesticide are nearing full-commercialisation.  Dr Mensah innovatively collaborates for the common good.

Highly Commended: New England Soundtrails

Entered by Gwydir Shire Council, New England Soundtrails was previously recognised by this awards programme. New England Soundtrails uses an App to deliver stories about local cultural or historic sites to visitors, triggered by GPS. Now, Gwydir Shire Council, NSW Catholic Education Moree Office, Tenterfield Visitor Information Centre and St Joseph's Primary School have collaborated – making Soundtrails an educational innovation in many respects.

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