Tuesday, 18 December 2012 14:10

Fieldays helps Kiwi win Oz award

By Pamela Tipa

A NEW Zealand company's 'revolutionary' brushcutter blade that won a 2011 product-of-the-year award from the Australian Outdoor Power Equipment Association got its start chiefly through National Field Days and with crucial help from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.


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."

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JOHN TULLOCH and Nick Gillot of Tulloch Farm Machines, Masterton, recently took a group of 39 including dealers, contractors, farmer clients with some wives and partners to the Grassland and Muck 2011 event at Stoneleigh near Coventry in England.

"It is a great idea to travel as a group as we have a chance to know each other better away from the pressures of business and as well we can have access to factories and plants that would be harder for an individual to access," said Gillot.

First stop was Manheim, Germany and a factory tour of the Krone plant in Spelle, and then to Werite where Krone has the second largest trailer factory in Europe.

The two-day Grasslands and Muck event at Stoneleigh was a highlight of the trip with some brand new Krone equipment on display and working for the first time.

First off the rank was the world's largest self propelled mower conditioner, the Krone Big M 500 with an operating width of 13.2 m, followed by the world's largest rotary rake, the Krone Swadro 2000 with an operating width of 19 m.

Pride of the new releases was the most powerful forage harvester in the world the Krone Big X 1100 capable of developing 1078 hp.

From the UK to some sightseeing in Banff, Alberta, Canada – "too much work makes Jack (and Jill) rather dull," – then on to a Krone dealer in Lethbridge and a feed lot holding 35000 head of cattle.

North of Calgary at Wetaskwin was the Supreme factory manufacturing vertical feeders and then a visit to Morson dairy farm to see possibly the most valuable dairy cow in the world, Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy VG89 producing 70 L per day with twice a day milking and recently sold for $C1.2 million. (NZ$1.5 million)

Then to Phoenix, Arizona to see a 2800 cow dairy farm along with some cotton/wheat/barley farms all being irrigated from the Colorado River in a way practised by local Indians 1000 years previously. Also watched was a contract team harvesting wheat, managed by a Kiwi for the last seven years.

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