TONSLEY INNOVATION HUB, ON THE FORMER 61ha SITE OF CHRYSLEY/MITSUBISHI CAR PLANTS, handed over to the state government in 2008, has been criticised as too ambitious – but it certainly has a rich tradition of South Australian innovation behind it.
The harsh demands of agriculture drove some world-changing South Australian inventions. John Ridley had been credited with saving the young colony in the 1840s by inventing a wheat reaper, although Mount Barker farmer John Wrathall Bull claimed the same invention.
The stump-jump plough, invented by Richard Bower Smith and his brother Clarence in 1876 was another breakthrough in cultivating paddocks.
Another agricultural innovation that went worldwide was Frederick May’s Model 115 harvester – with the first adjustable comb – produced at his Gawler factory in 1906.
South Australian also has important effects in everyday life in other ways.
Hungarian immigrant Charles Rothauser, a Hungarian immigrant, in 1956 renamed his plastics company Caroma and began making bathroom products, including the world'’s first one-piece plastic toilet cistern.
In 1980, with $130,000 government help, Bruce Thompson of Caroma developed a cistern with two buttons and flush volumes (11.0 litres and 5.5 litres) as a water-saving measure.
The wine cask, the flexible bag inside a box was first developed by Thomas Angove in 1965. It was later given the tap by Penfolds Wines and brought to market by Sam Wynn of Wynnvale Wines.
JOHN RIDLEY, JOHN BAGSHAW, SMITH BROTHERS, ALF HANNAFORD, FREDERICK MAY, DAVID UNAIPON
John Stokes Bagshaw was recognised for making the original patterns, in 1843, for John Ridley’s The Stripper wheat reaper machine that saved South Australia early agriculture by being able to reap six acres of grain in a day. Inspired by this success, Bagshaw invented Australia’s first winnowing machine in Australia. This replaced the old method of grain being separated from the chaff by using a flail on a hardened floor or by using horses or bullocks to walk over the grain, before it was manually sieved. Champion winnowers, as they became known, cost £17 each and Bagshaw sold more than 200 of them. Bagshaw continued to design and make much-needed agricultural machinery such as chaff cutters, corn crushers and churns. Bagshaw, who had arrived in South Australia with his Shropshire farmer parents and family in 1838, applied his mechanical skills by setting up an agricultural implement workshop in Elizabeth Street, Adelaide, initially working on floor mills at Noarlunga, Port Noarlunga and Encounter Bay. As one of the colony’s earliest pattern makers, Bagshaw was in demand for the first foundries – and John Ridley. In 1852 Bagshaw’s eldest son, John, also a skilled engineer, and second son Thomas joined J. S. Bagshaw and Sons, later The Pioneer Works. It produced agicultural seed cleaners, baggers, threshers, graders and feed grinders. John Bagshaw was active in Anglican Holy Trinity Church on North Terrace, Adelaide; member of Adelaide Municipal Council for Gawler Ward (1870-74) and a founder of the Ancient London Order of Oddfellows in South Australia.
The stump jump plough invented by Richard Bowyer Smith and his brother Clarence – or James Winchester Scott – in South Australia in the 1870s solved a major problem in cultivating mallee lands. Mallee scrub that originally covered much of southern Australia was difficult to clear, quickly regrew, and left big roots even after burning. The South Australian government was offering mallee scrub leases in 1966 but grubbing the land was costly, By 1878, the government offered £200 for an effective mechanical stump puller. Mullenising (named after Wasleys farmer Charles Mullens) became popular to clear scrub. This involved dragging a heavy roller over roughly cleared ground to crush young shoots; the field was burnt and a spiked log run over the ground before wheat was sown. Next season, the stubble and mallee regrowth was again burnt. Eventually the mallee died, though stumps remained. Richard Bowyer Smith and his brother perfected their stump-jump plough in 1876 on Yorke Peninsula. The plough's blades rose out of the ground when they hit a mallee stump. Used with mullenising, the plough was hailed as “complete revolution” in cropping the mallee lands. Smith was credited controversially as the stump-jump plough inventor, in 1883, by the South Australian parliament. Controversial, because James Winchester Scott, a prolific inventor from Alma, had also come up with a stump-jump plough, in 1877, to go with his cultivator, slasher, scarifier and double-furrow inventions. Scott and manufacturers the Mellor Brothers lodged the first stump-jump plough patent in Victoria.
Frederick May’s inventions, such as the adjustable harvester comber and ore concentrator, revolutionised Australian agriculture and mining for South Australia’s benefit. May brought inventing talent to South Australia from Cornwall where, as a 12-year-old in 1852, he built a steam engine. He later applied this self-taught steam-engine technology to the copper mining towns of Burra and Moonta, preventing the mines from flooding and saving the copper industry that rescued the South Australian colony drowning in debt. In Broken Hill, he was hailed for inventing an ore concentrator be used in BHP’s thriving ore mine. This mine had to flow-on effects to South Australia through local investors but also on the Port Pirie lead smelters. May’s worldwide effect was in agriculture. In 1906, he produced his Model 115 May Harvester from his Gawler factory north of Adelaide. This was the first harvester with an adjustable comb. It went global and is still used today. The Model 115 had a patented lubrication system, a clutch and a brake, all at the cutting edge of harvesting in 1906. The Model 115 was offered to farmers in a choice of colours: yellow, red and blue. Frederick May’s Model 115 harvester is exhibited at Adelaide University’s Roseworthy Agricultural College Museum near Gawler.
MAKING A COMMERCIAL IMPACT ACROSS AUSTRALIA FROM THE 19th CENTURY INTO 20th
IDEAS THAT DEVELOPED THE DISTINCTIVE WAY THAT SOUTH AUSTRALIA FUNCTIONS
William Boothby, the commissioner in charge of every South Australian parliamentary election from 1856 to 1903, pioneered the secret ballot system that was followed later by the rest of the world. On April 2, 1856, South Australia enacted a law introducing the secret ballot that had been adopted two weeks earlier in Victoria. But Boothby developed the system and prepared the clauses of the South Australian Act 1856 that instituted voting by ballot. In 1858, he introduced placing of a cross against the name of the favoured candidate on pre-printed ballots papers that would be place in sealed box. This was a big change from the British practice where voters assembled at election centres and called out the name of their chosen candidate. That public process made the voter vulnerable to bribery and intimidation. A secret ballot was one of six demands of Chartism that the British parliament refused to consider in 1842. Boothby’s system was adopted for federal government elections in Australia when he was the state returning officer for the first House of Representatives election in 1901. The South Australian federal seat of Boothby was named in his honour in 1903. First used by South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, the “Australian ballot”, as it became known internationally, was later adopted by other Australian colonies, by New Zealand in 1870, United Kingdom 1872, Canada 1874 and a United States of America presidential election in 1892. Seven USA states didn't have government-printed ballots until the 20th Century. South Carolina created them in 1950, Georgia in 1922.
Robert Richard Torrens, the son of South Australian founding figure Robert Torrens, became South Australia’s third premier but he is more famously associated with the land titles system that has been copied elsewhere. Arriving in South Australia in 1840, Torrens became collector of customs and ran into controversy. But he was nominated by the governor to the enlarged Legislative Council in 1851. When responsible government started in 1856, Torrens became treasurer in the ministry of Boyle Travers Finniss. He was elected as House of Assembly member for the City of Adelaide and in September 1857 became premier but his government lasted only a month. In December 1857, Torrens promoted an act for the transfer of real property. The system, later known as Torrens title, transferred property by registration of title instead of by deeds. Torrens’ credit for the system has been questioned. While the system may have also derived from a report to the British House of Commons in 1857, it was Torrens and German lawyer Dr Ulrich Hubbe (who knew the real property laws of the Hanse Towns), who put it into practical shape, with support from Carl Muecke and the German community. They fought it through parliament, with fierce opposition from the legal profession. Torrens later visited Victoria to help bring in the new system. In 1863, Torrens left Australia and became Liberal member for Cambridge in the House of Commons 1868-74.
ROLLING INTO THE 20th CENTURY WITH IDEAS BUBBLING
David Shearer made a major contribution to the independent development of the motor car, with the world’s first differential, in Australia, at Mannum on the River Murray in South Australia. In about 1882, he adapted the principle of the differential to a hand tricycle. Around 1885, as a hobby, he began making a steam-carriage, basing transmission of power from engine to wheels on the stripper harvester and steering on a principle used for the stumpjump plough. By 1897, he was driving his steam car round Mannum. Shearer got special permission for his “automobile” to be driven in Adelaide city streets in 1900 when it brought it to the chamber of manufacturers exhibition. Shearer’s vehicle lasted for trips of 100 miles and travelled at 15 miles an hour, faster than England’s first car, two years later, that reached 10-12 mph. David Shearer began working day and night in 1894 on his “horseless carriage” powered by steam with mallee wood firing the engine. But Shearer wasn’t interested in making cars. He just wanted to prove the horseless carriage was workable. After his success, he returned to making agricultural machinery at Mannum with his brother John. The Shearers were invited to Mannum where the farmers needed tough equipment to clear land of mallee and pine. In 1888, they invented a virtually unbreakable wrought steel plough share at one quarter the price of the old forged share. These shares swept Australia in popularity and saved farmers millions in plough-share costs. The steam car project was just a background to all this.
ROYAL FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE AND THE SCHOOL OF THE AIR
FAMILY ENTERPRISES A FEATURE OF 20th CENTURY SOUTH AUSTRALIAN INNOVATION
Besides inventing the world’s first disposable plastic hypodermic syringe in Adelaide in the late 1940s, Charles Rothauser, a pioneer of the injection-moulding of plastics, also developed the first all-plastic toilet cistern. Hungarian-born Rothauser, educated as an architect in Vienna, had begun making dolls with his wife Christine in Adelaide in 1939 as the Quality Toy Company. Finding a niche in the nascent plastics field enabled Rothauser to invent the plastic hypodermic syringe – a medical breakthrough that benefited millions of people. Starting with a factory in Norwood in 1941, his Caroma company became Australia’s leading manufacturers of bathroom products, including the world-first dual flush toilets system in 1982. He developed the Caroma Deluxe, the world’s first all-plastic one-piece moulded toilet cistern to combat Adelaide water’s corrosive effect on brass fittings. He built on the Caroma innovations with the first two-button dual flush and smartflush technology. Caroma was the first company to achieve the Australian water efficiency labelling and standard (WELS) five-star rating. Rothauser won a swag of export and design awards for his Caroma products out of the factories in Wetherill Park, Sydney (closed in 2014) and Norwood (closed in 2017).
Caroma products continue but are now all made overseas, with the Norwood plant shutting in 2017. The Caroma Dorf group of companies continues to offer bathroom, kitchen and laundry products from brands such as Fowler, Dorf, Clark, Epure, Radiant and Irwell. But its products are now made in Malaysia, China and Europe.
Xerography (photocopying), using liquid developer, was advanced by Ken Metcalfe and Bob Wright of the Defence Standards Laboratory in Adelaide in 1952. Xerography is a form of copying invented by American Chester Carlson in 1937. Carlson based his method on the property of some materials to increase their ability to conduct electricity when exposed to light (known as photo-conductivity).The xerographic process exposes a photosensitive surface to light reflected through or from the image to be copied. Next the surface is dusted with a dry powder developer that adheres to the charged areas creating a copy of the image. The copy is then transferred to paper and fixed with heat. Carlson's process reproduced black and white images well, but not images, such as photographs, with any shading. Metcalfe and Wright of the Defence Standards Laboratory (formerly the Munitions Supply Laboratory) in Adelaide studied xerography to adapt it for industrial and military use. In 1952, they began to use liquid developers which, because they contained more pigment particles than the dry developers, allowed copying of images containing continuous tones. Metcalfe and Wright's invention allowed the development of colour copying by overprinting consecutive image.
The Hills Hoist, hailed as “iconic Australian structure, an emblem, kid’s gym and merry go round, in every backyard”, has been proudly claimed as a South Australian innovation but the idea should be credited to Victorian blacksmith Gilbert Toyne. After serving in World War I and suffering personal troubles afterwards, Toyne pressed on with his rotary line idea and even had it made and marketed by the 1930s. Toyne lived to see his classic 1925 rotary clothes hoist design dominate Australian backyards after World War II but in a version credited to Lance Hill of Adelaide’s Hills Hoists. Having sold the rights to manufacture the hoist in Victoria, Toyle moved to Adelaide in 1926 to set up manufacturing centres in other states, including South Australia. In 1929, he shifted to Sydney and established his business at Five Dock, with his hoist selling nationally in the 1930s. Lance Hill’s 1945 Adelaide version of the rotary hoist was inspired by his wife’s frustration with her failing propped-up single line. Hill teamed up with is brother-in-law and started churning out the first of millions of hoists from their Adelaide factory. Hills Hoist, the rotary washing line with hoist quickly became a fixture in Australian backyards. Hill added and patented the winding mechanism in 1956. The company Hills Hoists became Hills Industries in 1958. Hills Limited developed into a technology product and services business. Gilbert Toyne died in 1983.
Codan is an international company developing rugged electronics solutions for government, corporate, NGO and consumer markets across the globe. It originated in 1959 from Adelaide University friends Alastair Wood, Ian Wall and Jim Bettison setting up EILCO (Electronics, Instrument and Lighting Company) to tackle challenges in electronics engineering. Codan now makes and supplies communications, metal detection and mining technology, headquartered at Mawson Lakes in Adelaide. Codan (then EILCO) released its first high-frequency radio – a Type 6104 HF transceiver in 1961 for the School of the Air operating in the Australian outback. In 1980, Codan equipment was chosen by the United Nations to support its relief efforts in Uganda, cementing Codan as the leading global supplier of high-frequency communications to humanitarian organisations. Codan now has a global footprint, with offices in the US, Canada, Ireland, United Arab emirates, South Africa and China. Its customers include some of the world’s largest aid and humanitarian organisations, mining companies, security and military groups and governments. Its products are sold in more than 150 countries, with exports making up about 85% of revenue, through a global network of dealers, distributors and agents. Publicly floated in 2003, Codan bought Minelab Electronics in 2008, supplier of world’s best hand-held metal detection technology. Minetec and Daniels Electronics were added to the Codan Group in 2012, cementing its world-class offerings in radio communications, metal detection and tracking solutions.
Cask (bag in a box) wine was invented by Tom Angove of Angove's, a South Australian winemaker from Renmark, and patented by the company in 1965. His design was based on a product already on the market: a bag in a box that held battery acid. The Angove bag took two years to develop before polyethylene bladders of one gallon (4.5 litres) were placed in corrugated boxes for retail sale of table white, table red, port, sweet sherry and muscat. Tom Angove’s original 1965 cask design didn’t last long. The consumer had to open the box, take the bag out, snip off a corner to pour the wine, and seal the bag with a paperclip. During the next few years others improved on the design. In 1967, Melbourne wine merchant Dan Murphy worked with Geelong inventor Charles Malpas to develop a tap that could be attached to the bag, letting wine out but stopping air getting in. Penfolds winemaker Ian Hickinbotham also worked to perfect the tap idea and it appeared on that company’s first version of the cask in 1968 — a bag inside what looked like a paint tin. In 1971, Sam Wynn of Wynnvale Wines reverted to the bag-in-box technology patented by American company Scholle in the 1950s for battery-acid containers. All modern wine casks now use a plastic tap, exposed by tearing away a perforated panel on the box. The bag-in-box packaging concept expanded to other beverages including spring waters, orange juices and wine coolers but today wine and spring water are the main two beverages packed into these bags.
Alan Hickinbotham brought a radical innovative environmental philosophy to South Australian housing. His family-owned company is now Australia's 10th biggest and the state's biggest home builder of 35,000 houses and more than 50 estates. Alan Hickinbotham came to housing as an Adelaide University graduate (after RAAF war service) in science and education and teaching science and maths in his birthplace town at Geelong Grammar. He also was a footballer with Geelong, South Adelaide and South Australian state teams. With his father, Alan entered housing by building on a block of land in Sturdee Street, Linden Park, in 1954. The house, that quickly sold, still stands today. With environmental awareness and saving precious water, the Hickinbotham family, also in the wine industry, were the first developers to put phone and powerlines underground and have restrictive covenants on felling trees at their Athelstone estate in the 1960s. This estate was the first development to win a Civic Trust award. The concept of storing run-off stormwater in the aquifer for later reuse was pioneered by Hickinbotham with the CSIRO, put into practice at the company's Andrews Farm estate. This project set standards for Australia. Hickinbothams were instrumental in Australia's first joint ecumenical Anglican/Catholic school St Columba College at Andrews Farm estate. When the state government couldn't provide a primary school for Woodend Estate, Hickinbothams found private investors to fund it. The company built the campus and leased it to the government, creating the first privately-owned public school.
Luigi Crotti founded what became the San Remo pasta brand company when he arrived with his wife in Adelaide from the Lombardy region in 1936 – when there were about 2000 Italians in the state. San Remo is still a family company, based at Windsor Gardens, but now the No.1 dry pasta producer in Australia and exporting to 35 countries from its 750 products. Luigi Crotti’s son Aldo was founding partner in his family business that survived the days when pasta was still a niche product in Australia. When pasta was more common in the 1960s, the Crottis’ San Remo brand was competing with nine others. The San Remo Marcaroni Company turned to a high-quality product at low cost through economies of scale. It was the first manufacturer to foster distribution to supermarket model developing in Australia. San Remo is Australia’s No.1 pasta brands, with a 50% market share, and one of its largest manufacturers. Since the 1990s, San Remo has worked with farmers and Adelaide University’s Waite Agricultural Research Institute at Roseworthy developing a better-quality durum wheat. San Remo’s special durum wheat mill is one of the largest and most sophisticated mills in the Australian and South-East Asia. San Remo semolina mill at Windsor Gardens is also the largest in Australasia. The company had been inducted into the Family Business Australia Hall of Fame. In 2008, San Remo bought another iconic South Australian food business: Balfour's, maker of pies, parties, sausage rolls and famous green frog cake.
Plastic thinking motivated the start of Seeley International in 1972 when Frank Seeley switched from selling portable evaporative air conditioners to making them. Seeley saw plastics as the way to overcome the problem of corroding metal air conditioners. He set up in his garage at home in suburban Adelaide, making 1000 plastic air conditioners in the first year. Despite the doubts of others, Seeley persisted and developed all-plastic evaporative air conditioners – first portable and then, in 1983, ducted rooftop air conditioners. This was a breakthrough for the whole industry. The all-plastic air conditioners helped grow the rooftop cooling market in Australia from 12,000 units each year to around 70,000 units a year. Plastic air conditioners became industry standard. This growth led to Seeley expanding in own manufacturing capacity and approach. After using assembled parts made by suppliers, Seeley gradually brought more and more processes in house at its Lonsdale plant. This included its own injection moulding of plastic, as well as making motors, pumps and filters. The in-house manufacturing at first happened because suppliers had a monopoly and were increasing their prices. Since then, it has become part of the Seeley philosophy to provide local jobs. During the 1980s, Seeley began exporting evaporative air conditioners – first to the Middle East, then USA, then UK. It opened several sales offices around the world and won awards for design and manufacturing best practice. Seeley’s passion for innovation continued in 2010 with another revolution: Climate Wizard.
Ennio International of Holden Hill has built up a global market for its seamless smallgoods netting. This is a triumph in innovating for a company that started life as fashion business. Husband and wife Gervasio and Giovanna Mercuri brought their design experience to Australia from Italy in 1957 and founded Mercuri Knitwear in Adelaide. They built their business with quality garments, winning numerous Australian awards. But the dropping of tarrifs on imported textiles in the 1980s forced the Mercuris to diversify. They realised they could use their machines to make netting for meats and smallgoods. Forming Ennio Pty Ltd in 1983, they soon added several new purpose-built knitting machines. The Mercuris were among the first in the world to make seamless smallgoods netting. Ennio International went global in the late 1980s with an improved design of elastic netting launched as String Cling. It now exports to Europe, China, the USA and Canada, as well as dominating the Australian and New Zealand markets. It won a $2 million federal government manufacturing grant to buy high-tech textile equipment for meat packaging. The Mercuris have launched more patented netting and casing products to fill gaps in the Australian and international market with quality packaging solutions for the meat, poultry and smallgoods worldwide. Ennio International was inducted into the Family Business Australia hall of fame in 2016 and won its distinguished family business of year award in 2017.
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN IDEAS GETTING GLOBAL ATTENTION INTO 21st CENTURY
The world’s most prestigious thoroughbred racing clubs rely on Mount Barker-based Steriline Racing’s race-track infrastructure for perfect starts and finishes. The Mount Barker-based South Australian company designs, manufactures, installs and services everything from starting gates and running rails to finishing posts and presentation podiums. Steriline Racing began in the 1950s when it built the first movable starting gates in Australia and has grown into a global powerhouse exporting to more than 50 countries. Already holding 100% of the British market (including Royal Ascot), Steriline Racing’s racetrack equipment is now used at virtually every racetrack across Australia and it has most of the South East Asian market. Many major horse racing organisations including the Hong Kong Jockey Club (Happy Valley and Sha Tin Racecourses), Singapore Turf Club (Kranji Racecourse), Victoria Racing Club (Flemington Racecourse), Australian Turf Club (Royal Randwick Racecourse), Meydan in Dubai, and Riyadh Equestrian Club in Saudi Arabia use Steriline equipment. Starting gates involved sophisticated engineering but it also has to consider the psychology of horse and rider. This involves understanding the dynamic of the horses and also the thought processes of the jockey Safety is a key consideration. This pressure is on to load horses quicker so they are not standing in the gates for such a long time, because that reduces the risk. In 2015, the company was given the South Australian Regional Exporter Award and was a national finalist in the 53rd Australian Export Awards.
The flashing cricket stumps and bails used in Test, Twenty20 and 50-over cricket at international and top domestic level, including the hugely popular Indian Premier League (IPL), were designed and made by Port Adelaide-based manufacturer Zing International. The LED technology Zing Wicket System has gone strength to strength since launching in 2012, consistently growing export markets to New Zealand, South Africa, the Caribbean, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Television audiences for the Indian and Caribbean premier league Twenty20 matches run into the billions. Zing’s cricket stumps and bails had their United States debut in the Caribbean Premier League Twenty20 tournament in Florida. The Zing Wicket System was first tried in a club game in Adelaide. Once Cricket Australia was convinced about using it instead of the wooden stumps for night matches, it used them in the 2012 Big Bash League in Australia. Invented by Bronte Eckermann, Zing flashing stumps and bails work through an innovative patented sensor system in each end of the bail that flashes coloured lights the millisecond both ends of the bail lift from the stumps. The revolutionary product has solved a common problem where it can be difficult to determine on a TV replay if both ends of any bail have lifted from the stumps and, therefore, if the batsman is out. With the help of 3D printing technology, the company can now manufacture 90% of the Zing System in Australia, with 80% in Adelaide, allowing quality control and local jobs.