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Regional communities and First Nations agriculture the ultimate winners of innovation challenge

[by Nicole Barlow]


Image: supplied

Charles Sturt University Innovation Hubs’ entrant Zetifi took second place in the NSW Government’s final COVID-19 Innovation Districts Challenge.

Another Charles Sturt entrant, First People Solutions, a First Nations-owned and operated company, received the District Prize of $10,000 for their work bridging the gap between traditional knowledge and the scientific understanding of the active compounds in native plants.

The NSW Government’s Boosting Business Innovation Program has invested $3 million with the Innovation Districts Challenges, led by Boosting Business Innovation Program partner organisations, of which Charles Sturt Innovation Hubs is a partner.

Both businesses said they are using the funds to continue their work in 2022 and continue to strive to make a difference in the lives of people in rural and regional Australia.

Zetifi, a regionally-based wireless networking company, will use the $100,000 to continue the development and commercialisation of the ZetiBase – a unique internet gateway that offer farmers and rural residents the promise of improved internet speed and reliability.

Zetifi CEO and Founder Mr Dan Winson (pictured) said COVID-19 reinforced the importance of reliable connectivity and that the ZetiBase represents just one of many exciting new connectivity options for people living and working in the bush.

“The importance of the internet for remote work, education and entertainment during COVID-19 lockdowns really highlighted the plight of people in rural and remote areas,” he said.

“We know from the farmers we speak to that there is still a high level of frustration about the quality and reliability of their phone and internet services but there’s good reason to believe that we’ve reached a turning point where farmers and rural residents will no longer be left behind.”

Mr Winson points to the ZetiBase and the recent arrival of low earth orbit satellite internet technology from Starlink as an example of the new options that are available to farmers and rural residents.

“We believe strongly that solving rural connectivity requires a range of providers and products,” he said.

“The ZetiBase is novel in that it optimises available network connections from the nbn, phone networks and new internet services like Starlink. The unique internet gateway can also broadcast to cars and tractors up to three kilometres away via long-range Wi-Fi.

“All of these providers have an important role to play but the arrival of Starlink to Australia in April 2021 has really changed the game and there’s good reason to think that 2022 may be the year when the internet experience for many farmers finally catches up with their city friends.”

First People Solutions Group Manager Mr Phil Thompson said the funding gives them confidence that the wider market will appreciate their unique Australian products.

“We will be conducting research to qualify and quantify the medicinal properties of Indigenous medicines, proving undoubtedly what our Indigenous forbears have known and practiced for thousands of years,” he said.

Charles Sturt Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Associate Professor Jason White said he was delighted Zetifi and First People Solutions received the grants and the recognition they deserve.

“Zetifi and First People Solutions are sterling examples of how the regions’ challenges can inspire extraordinary innovation,” he said.

“As a District Innovation Partner, Charles Sturt University is proud to have supported Zetifi and First People Solutions in their applications.”

Charles Sturt University has similar initiatives coming up that people can apply for to obtain assistance in growing their businesses and ideas.

The first Ready to Launch program, a 10-week program that takes regional business ideas to the launch phase, for 2022 is now open.

Applications close Friday 4 February and the program commences Monday 21 February.


More information about the program and application process is available online.


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