Practical technology-based products seeking immediate field trials and ground-breaking technology concepts are among the winners of the inaugural 2017 Tech eChallenge Wool Innovation program.

Bringing young minds to everyday issues faced by woolgrowers, the collaboration involves Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), the Entrepreneurship Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC) at the University of Adelaide and Charles Sturt University Wagga Wagga (CSU).

Teams comprising students, staff and the wider community undertook an intensive workshop course over the past three months to give them the skills to develop practical, low-cost digital tools to help wool producers improve animal health, welfare and productivity.

Working in teams, participants came up with ideas and developed products they then pitched to a panel of expert judges in the Grand Final held at University of Adelaide.

Taking home the $20,000 first prize is the winning team representing CSU & TAFE Wagga Wagga; Wireless Farms demonstrated a low-cost, Wireless Sensor Network kit for farmers, driven by solar powered wireless links of up to 10km that can be used to transmit data from cameras and a range of sensors including custom-developed water level sensors.

The four runner up teams, who each won $10,000 were:

  • Woven Optics from ECIC who presented the concept of a 3D printed phone clip-on device that, in theory, enable woolgrowers to measure wool quality characteristics from the paddock and woolshed, in real time.
  • BreedElite from ECIC who presented a software/hardware weighing and drafting prototype that adds data functionality and analysis from smart phones and tablets to inform real time decision making.
  • Team Agraph, representing CSU, who presented an intelligent data analysis system that will give farmers easy access to real time customised information on demand via their smart phone or tablet to help decision making; and
  • Farwatch representing ECIC who presented a remote-controlled camera sensor device incorporating infrared photo capability to monitor water sources.

Australian Wool Innovation CEO Stuart McCullough said, “Australian Wool Innovation is delighted to have been part of this innovative approach to attracting the best young minds in the “Tech World” towards thinking about wool. The University of Adelaide – Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation & Innovation Centre and Charles Sturt University have delivered with many of the participants in the 2017 Tech eChallenge Wool Innovation program having brought their skills and enthusiasm from outside the wool industry. The variety and quality of innovative digital ideas to improve the productivity and profitability for Australian woolgrowers has been great to see.”

Prof Noel Lindsay Pro Vice Chancellor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Adelaide added how partnering with AWI has provided the University with great insight into the real issues that the wool industry faces and it has been a great privilege to inspire young entrepreneurs to look for innovative solutions that can help shape the future of the wool industry. The outcomes have been exceptional and we look forward to being a catalyst for generating future innovations in the Wool Industry.

Head of CSU’s School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences, Professor David Falepau said, “The 2017 Tech eChallenge Wool Innovation has shown us just a glimpse of the solutions out there for everyday issues and opportunities faced by wool producers. Opening up wool producers’ challenges to the wider community was key to capturing these great ideas around technologies not immediately thought of as having a wool industry application.”

AWI will now be extending the partnership with ECIC and CSU by supporting a wool innovation stream in the 2017 Australian eChallenge. Commencing in July 2017, the 12-week program will equip teams comprising people from diverse backgrounds, skill disciplines and locations, with the capability to take ideas to improve woolgrower productivity & profitability through to launch via business model and market validation.

The 2017 Tech eChallenge – Wool Innovation program collaboration with AWI forms part of the Farm Automation & Software Development strategy of the Sheep Production Portfolio in the 2016/17 – 2018/19 AWI Strategic Plan.

This story was first published in Leading Agriculture Issue 23.

Feature image: The winning team from Charles Sturt University and Wagga Wagga TAFE