Struggling Australian dairy processors are facing political pressure to ensure farmers are not short-paid for their milk.
Airecut Company Ltd won the award for its Airecut blade, a self-sharpening and self-clearing brushcutter tri-blade. Notable for its aerofoil twist and reverse bevel, the blade has been in development since 2005 and marketed since June 2009.
Though set up only three years ago, the company has this year sold at least 100,000 units in 40 countries through major distributors, says director Barry Funnell, who developed the blade. The 2011 award for ancillary product of the year from the Australian Outdoor Power Equipment Association is important not least because the association represents the majority of Australia's medium and large outdoor power-product manufacturers.
The Airecut Tri-cut blades won the prize in competition with a Kohler Comander Pro engine, a Stihl fuel stabiliser and a Silvan diesel transfer tank, amongst other entrants.
Funnell says none of this would have been possible without his product's publicity at National Fieldays, gained when he launched it there in the innovations contest. "We would not have launched internationally if hadn't been for Fieldays," he told Rural News.
"New Zealanders don't appreciate the value of Fieldays. It's at an international [event] that attracts international visitors. It's great if you've got things to launch."
Funnell met Mowac Coporation Ltd manager John Lahman owner at the Fieldays, and noted Lahman's surprise at the number of people ordering the blade. "He couldn't believe how many people were buying the blade. We had four people going flat out taking money and dealing with eftpos. He was so staggered... that he asked if he could be the national distributor." Airecut is now distributed by Mowac, JakMax and PMD International Co.
Also, Funnell says his company would not have achieved what it has without the help of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which he and associates approached four years ago to apply for an R&D grant. They have received four grants, including one for patent research. Business connections and other resources were also helpful.
The biggest boost was to the company's credibility, Funnell says. "Mower manufacturers in New Zealand weren't interested in what we had to offer; launching anything new they tend to be conservative but with the ministry [helping] bankroll us it gives credibility."
The blade is said to be a big hit in lifestyle property and rural markets, which account for 80-90% of sales.
"So far the biggest market has been North America, and the second-biggest Europe," Funnell says. "A recently launched two-tip blade sells well in South America, the Pacific Islands and Asia. We expect sales to double next year."