Editor Picks

Editor Picks

The State of Drones, Australia

Drone technology in Australia has seen a marked increase in interest but a lack of progress with legislation. But few can answer ‘what are the drone laws in Australia?’
  • Nintendo’s technological innovations in the last 5 years have paved the way for the drones you see today.
  • Founders and investors need to stay wary of future legislative changes and fully understand laws on drones in Australia.
  • There is a bottom-up approach within large corporations where employees are bringing in their own drones to create efficiencies.

Interest in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s), or drones, has dramatically increased in recent years. This brings along a new opportunity for Australian companies to scale up their technology, as well as reveals a foreign territory that demands legislation. Once integrated, the potential will be unlocked and applied to countless sectors. Drones with cameras, drones with spray nozz

Drone technology in Australia
Innovation in this space is an alien concept

les, drones with the capability to lift upwards of 50kg landing us in a transitory phase and in a sense, a technological revolution.

For most, innovation in this space is an alien concept. However, for AJ Verma, an executive, and engineer in the field, this is familiar ground. He revealed to The Venture how this technology didn’t develop overnight and instead relied on collaboration between industries to reach the level it is at now. Whilst the first drones took to the skies in the 70s, the turn of the century saw the necessary components become readily accessible. In fact, it was none other than the ‘Nintendo Wii’ that brought the same hardware needed for flight control into everyday life, and this occurred simultaneously with elements like lithium batteries and BLDC motors reducing in cost. The exponential growth of technology has reached a point where its capabilities can’t be ignored.

“It’s an exciting time to be involved in this industry, the world is changing significantly and we are on the cusp of a transport revolution with drones on land, in the sea, and in the air.”

As for Australian companies, where do we stand? Verma has faith that although the industry hasn’t infiltrated mainstream economics, the foundations are there. “I do believe Australia is a good place to start developing these technologies, leveraging off R&D tax incentives, commercial and defence grants & partnerships allow for R&D and market exploration.” The biggest issue is that of scale – investors currently involved have found success chasing volume markets overseas. “This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a symptom of an industry being simultaneously heavily regulated and filled with cowboys.”

Paul New, a consultant, and executive director at ‘The Institute of Drone Technology’ explained how despite this smaller scale, Australia has made a shift towards using drones commercially in recent years. From agriculture to infrastructure, drone technology is being taken on board at a rapid rate. Being slightly behind the curve compared to countries such as America isn’t a bad thing, as New reveals. We have the chance to understand the international drone legislation landscape and adapt this in our domestic legislation.

The US is yet to shift its model to be more customer-friendly and relax its strict regulations, thus more progressive countries may become the targets for further drone investments. Validating actual customer-centric metrics and finding appropriate solutions to issues are concerns that most start-ups face, so this is in no way new territory. Verma attributes most of his success, and the ability to make a positive impact on communities, to being customer-focused with his ambitions.

Satisfying the demand whilst also adhering to the necessary legal requirements is the main challenge the drone industry faces, essentially – to be successful, “don’t get caught out”, according to New. Paul divulged to The Venture stating many executives, CXO’s and boards who have their eye on aerospace technology are unaware of the appropriate licences and it is this lack of knowledge that poses the greatest threat to companies. Questions around training, materials, and regulations are prevalent and must be addressed within Australia if the true potential of drones is to be realised.

Man or a worker with drone standing in a warehouse.

“How do we train the pilots? How do we manage the traffic? How do we create reliable supply chains of talent, materials, components? How do we regulate autonomy?” (Verma). Looking at the past where other innovations have tackled similar issues is an effective way to grasp the reality of future legislation. 10 years ago, electric cars were a new initiative, and commercial ambitions in the space posed similar risks to what drones face now. Yet now, there isn’t a manufacturer in the automotive industry that can risk turning a blind eye to electric transportation.

So, what’s in the immediate future? Paul New has alluded to the current use of drones in Australia stems from a Bottom-up approach colloquially known as the ‘Bring Your Own Drone’ (BYOD) model…and it’s gaining traction. BYOD, meaning employees bringing their technology into organisations, both enterprise, and government, and applying the technology to their respective fields. This is similar to the “Bring Your Own Device” model many schools have embodied, allowing students to boost their educational experience. “This empowerment of the workforces through the so-called ‘consumerisation of IT’ has increased productivity and reduced costs” (New).

Thank you to our contributors:

Paul New –  LinkedIn Profile
An early adopter and believer in the disruption economies like Drones and Digital, Paul began his Tech journey seven years ago, after establishing a successful executive career in Business Turnarounds, Risk and Security Management.

Anuj Verma – LinkedIn Profile
Aj Verma is working on a startup focused on aerospace training systems deployed to militaries that incorporate hardware and software elements. Prior to that, he was the CEO of an avionics startup, where he grew the company with zero funding to profitability and over a million dollars in ARR in 18 months through product development, corporate and go-to-market strategies.

Innovative Australian Drug receives Break-through Therapy “Barrier to Innovation” Waiver by the FDA CVM (USA Federal Drug Agency)

The FDA CVM is the FDA’s veterinarian department.

The assessment criteria are
  • Innovation: a drug must be highly innovative, novel, a medical break-through.
  • Efficacy: Is there sufficient information for proof of concept in a validated in vitro system or in the target animal or an animal model of the target animal (e.g., laboratory rodent species)?
  • Small-Medium Company: Is the company below $20 million in market size.

We were able to satisfy the criteria and examiners with a detailed application outlining the scientific evidence, they do not give these out lightly.

This success adds serious credibility to our dealings with the government, regulators and the market.

SnoreTox Pty Ltd : Drug Solution for Hypotonic (Low tone) Muscle Disorders.

A RMIT University spin-off, we have produced modified Tetanus Toxins for Weak and Low Tone Muscle Disorders. They are revolutionary First-in-Class Pharmaceuticals.

There are no FDA approved drugs for increasing the tone and strength of skeletal and sphincter muscles for humans or animal usage. We have developed modified tetanus toxin molecules to achieve this end, to be called Tonetox (general use) and Snoretox (for snoring and sleep apnoea).

Botox was successfully developed to reduce muscle tone for cosmetic and medical purposes such as sphincter relaxation, muscle stiffness and spasms, and so it was considered that Tetanus toxin, a molecule that does the opposite of Botox, would have significant medical applications should a workable version be developed, a version that could avoid the vaccination-induced antibodies.

The innovative step is the cloning and production of modified tetanus toxin molecules to achieve that end, research performed at RMIT University over the last 10 years and supported by an ARC ran CVT and internal RMIT Grant funding.

The objective is to create a whole new market of treatment capability in the area of increasing muscle tone.  Conditions resulting from low muscle tone include snoring, sleep apnoea, sphincter laxity (gastric reflux, anal and urinary incontinence), cosmetic conditions such as ectropion (lower eyelid laxity), eyelid lifting and facial muscle toning, pelvic floor and limb weakness, and neurological conditions of low muscle tone such as Motor Neurone Disease, MS, stroke and Myopathy in both in humans and animals. There are currently no drugs in this space.

Animal Tags, Satellites and the Path of an Aussie Agritech Going Global

  • CEO of Agritech startup CERES Tag, David Smith, talks to CRIISP Media about his journey.
  • David talks about getting into the agricultural sector and taking his agritech international. 
  • CERES Tag is utilising Low Earth Orbit Satellites to create efficiencies in the data analysis process. 
  • The technology uses a tag alone to retrieve all the data needed to make crucial decisions in the space of livestock monitoring.

With 3000 prototypes sold across 8 countries, Ceres Tag is the newest and most exciting agritech startup in animal welfare and monitoring. Encompassing livestock, wildlife, and companion animals, the tag acts like a FitBit, collecting data on an animal’s location, performance, and health. It doesn’t end there, the data is then sent to a Low Earth Orbit (nano)-satellite online interface, the ‘Cerescloud’, removing the need for additional infra

Automatic agricultural technology robot arm watering plants tree

structure and allowing farmers to instantly view crucial information regarding their stock.

So why is this important? Due to the current climate, consumers are demanding more cohesive data regarding where their food comes from, biosecurity, and the welfare of animals in general. The Ceres Tag has secured their palace in the industry with perfect timing in alignment with this new consumer trend and the widespread shift from traditional farming practices to a bigger focus on new technolo

gy and big data. We spoke to the founder, David Smith, about the ins and outs of the agritech space, establishing a client base, and raising capital for this newborn technology. 

Getting into Agri-Tech

When asked about entering the Agricultural sector, Smith was quite candid in his advice; “Agri-tech is not very competitive because most of the solutions are quite myopic.” There are no secret solutions around breaking into Agri-Tech, just the need for a strong idea that provides value at many levels of the supply chain and to multiple parties. Hence why the Ceres Tag is a strong initiative. It tackles three major concerns for farmers;

  • Where are my animals?
  • How many are there?
  • What condition are they in?

Yet it also has the capacity to expand on these parameters and apply them to finance, insurance, regulatory reporting, research, and many more fields. Furthermore, it transcends the agriculture industry and can be used on domestic pets and endangered species. Thus diversifying streams of income. 

The client base

Australia’s history of agriculture is established and successful. Despite being home to only 2% of the global cattle heard, Australia is the 3rd largest exporter in beef – just behind Brazil and India. The industry is a major contributor to the national economy, with total revenue of $18b and generating around 77, 000 jobs. Due to the high level of exports, there is a heavy reliance on international markets. Any product launching in the sphere will struggle to succeed if it doesn’t appeal to operators worldwide and align with international standards.

Smart farming, using modern technologies in agriculture. Female agronomist farmer with digital tablet computer in wheat field using apps and internet for crop protection, selective focus

On a more personal level, Smith describes the people involved as very direct – “What you see is what you get and “no” comes easy to say.” This creates a very comfortable environment for feedback so there is less time-wasting and a bigger focus on improving, inspiring, and delivering. Despite being a broad industry, it is deeply interconnected, and “a lot of people know each other”. There also isn’t a monopoly or any dominant players, so it is open to new insights and able to expand without disruption. 

Finding Agritech Capital

Ceres Tag has been incredibly efficient on their journey so far. They have done 3-4 smaller raises, and are now seeking bigger sums of capital before they launch into the global market. Despite receiving generous grants from the government, they, “have delivered everything we said we would and then some.” Smart use of smaller sums of money has allowed Ceres Tag to create a market-ready product that can now be applied globally without change. 

Scaling is their next big challenge, hence why they are currently seeking a US$10m capital raise to further expand their business domestically and globally. The agriculture industry is no exception to the wide-spread changes as a result of COVID-19. However, Smith believes this will work in Ceres Tag’s favour as consumers are, “now more than ever, concerned about biosecurity, where their food comes from, the welfare of animals in general and are becoming more comfortable with technology”.

Innovative Australian Drug receives Break-through Therapy “Barrier to Innovation” Waiver by the FDA CVM (USA Federal Drug Agency)

The FDA CVM is the FDA’s veterinarian department.

The assessment criteria are
  • Innovation: a drug must be highly innovative, novel, a medical break-through.
  • Efficacy: Is there sufficient information for proof of concept in a validated in vitro system or in the target animal or an animal model of the target animal (e.g., laboratory rodent species)?
  • Small-Medium Company: Is the company below $20 million in market size.

We were able to satisfy the criteria and examiners with a detailed application outlining the scientific evidence, they do not give these out lightly.

This success adds serious credibility to our dealings with the government, regulators and the market.

SnoreTox Pty Ltd : Drug Solution for Hypotonic (Low tone) Muscle Disorders.

A RMIT University spin-off, we have produced modified Tetanus Toxins for Weak and Low Tone Muscle Disorders. They are revolutionary First-in-Class Pharmaceuticals.

There are no FDA approved drugs for increasing the tone and strength of skeletal and sphincter muscles for humans or animal usage. We have developed modified tetanus toxin molecules to achieve this end, to be called Tonetox (general use) and Snoretox (for snoring and sleep apnoea).

Botox was successfully developed to reduce muscle tone for cosmetic and medical purposes such as sphincter relaxation, muscle stiffness and spasms, and so it was considered that Tetanus toxin, a molecule that does the opposite of Botox, would have significant medical applications should a workable version be developed, a version that could avoid the vaccination-induced antibodies.

The innovative step is the cloning and production of modified tetanus toxin molecules to achieve that end, research performed at RMIT University over the last 10 years and supported by an ARC grant and internal RMIT Grant funding.

The objective is to create a whole new market of treatment capability in the area of increasing muscle tone.  Conditions resulting from low muscle tone include snoring, sleep apnoea, sphincter laxity (gastric reflux, anal and urinary incontinence), cosmetic conditions such as ectropion (lower eyelid laxity), eyelid lifting and facial muscle toning, pelvic floor and limb weakness, and neurological conditions of low muscle tone such as Motor Neurone Disease, MS, stroke and Myopathy in both in humans and animals. There are currently no drugs in this space.