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December 2006 Issue
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Wine industry to benefit from echallenge win


A plan for an autonomous robotic system for pruning grape vines, by Team Vinetology, captured the imagination of the judges to take the top prize in the 2006 University of Adelaide Entrepreneurs' Challenge.

The Vinetology team members are Ben Longstaff, a University of Adelaide mechatronic engineering honours graduate and PhD student in image processing in the School of Mechanical Engineering, and long-time friend and Santos Commercial Adviser Damien Mavroudis. They have received $12,500 in cash and $15,000 in equipment from key sponsor Hewlett-Packard.

The University of Adelaide Entrepreneurs' Challenge, or echallenge, is a joint University-Hewlett Packard initiative that aims to foster the successful development of new ideas into investment-ready, start-up companies. It is run by the University's Education Centre for Innovation and Commercialisation (ECIC).

The Vinetology concept seeks to replace hand pruning of premium grape vines with an automated system using cutting-edge vision software they are developing. This will instruct robotic equipment where and how to cut the vines - providing a significant time and cost saving for vineyards.

The team were mentored through echallenge by Bob Walter, Director, Executive Education with the University's Adelaide Graduate School of Business.

"The echallenge provided us with a great platform to help materialise what was just an idea into an industry-backed concept," Damien Mavroudis said.

"The exposure to the high quality support networks, in particular our mentor Bob Walter, provided a solid sounding board for our concept as well as exposure to industry contacts which significantly fast-tracked our concept. ECIC Director Professor [Noel] Lindsay was also a great help."

Professor Noel Lindsay said: "The echallenge stimulates entrepreneurship and creates genuine commercial prospects for the benefit of South Australia. Echallenge celebrates and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship among our students and the outcomes exemplify the impact the University of Adelaide has in the community."

Vinetology will be using their echallenge proceeds to fund the development phase of their concept. They aim to make the automated vine pruning service a commercial reality within two years.

The annual business planning competition involves teams of up to six students, all including at least one University of Adelaide student, developing a business plan for a new previously unfunded concept.

Second place went to EnviroAir (Vince Borg, Heidi Dennis, Jennifer Varzalay, Thomas Mulraney, James Wright, Andrew Kadis) for a system combining heating with air diffusion for a fire-safe, allergy-friendly and cost-effective solution to breathing easy in the bedroom. EnviroAir also won the Vroom Award sponsored by Vroom and Associates.

Faibelle - Natural Skin Couture (Julia Beardsley, Sara Newman, Sophie Christian and Michael Dodd) won third place for a proposal for custom-made natural and effective skincare products using skin scanning technology. Faibelle also won The Advertiser 'Market Ready' award.

The People's Choice award went to Purely (Emily Humphreys and Danielle Jones) for a range of organic cotton female underwear free from the chemicals used in conventional underwear products.

Story by Robyn Mills

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Echallenge winners Ben Longstaff (left) and Damien Mavroudis (right) accept their prize from Hewlett-Packard Director of Finance Jack Gargano
Photo by Ben Searcy

Echallenge winners Ben Longstaff (left) and Damien Mavroudis (right) accept their prize from Hewlett-Packard Director of Finance Jack Gargano
Photo by Ben Searcy

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