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Making Hay While Research Sun Shines

14 November 2001

MAKING HAY WHILE RESEARCH SUN SHINES

A Palmerston North engineering company has doubled its market potential, thanks to research part-funded by Technology New Zealand.

Reese Agri has become the first New Zealand-based manufacturer of heavy duty disc mowers for hay and silage making, a task that originally seemed both daunting and yet crucial in the company's bid to capture market share from imported models.

"We wanted to branch out using our engineering expertise in drum mowers, but it was a big project for us, involving different conceptual designs and starting from scratch, " says Reese Agri general manager, Ross Simpson.

Funding through the Grants for Private Sector Research and Development (GPSRD) scheme, part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, allowed the company to kick-start its research and development programme. This included employing a skilled engineer, establishing a development team and finding a source for prototype cutter bars from overseas.

"The GPSRD grant helped us to do the whole project in-house and assisted the development of a specialist R&D unit. We are now in the process of applying for a patent for our spring tensioning and headstock flotation design," says Mr Simpson.

Mr Simpson says the GPSRD grant proved vital at a period when the company's new owners were facing a high cash drain and he estimates it saved Reese Agri about a year's preparation time. He says "throughout the project we received excellent support from the local enterprise agency (Vision Manawatu) which helped the process run smoothly. This project, together with other initiatives has helped the company reposition itself in the hay and silage equipment industry."

Up until now, the 28 year old company has concentrated on belt-driven drum mowers, which are sold in New Zealand and internationally. "We felt that if we were to grow the company, then it made sense to have a product range that covers a range of mower preferences. We're confident that we've come up with a heavy duty, low maintenance and reliable disc mower that is very competitive with the European imports," says Mr Simpson.

Mr Simpson says the move into a new area opens up a large part of the local market, while a low NZ dollar should contribute to a cost competitive international product. The mower will be introduced in Australia towards the end of the year, and is on show in the US early in 2002.

John Gibson, investment manager of the GPSRD scheme says it is pleasing that the Reese Agri project has been commercially successful as well as meeting a number of different criteria. " The company already had a core expertise, knew what its markets were and understood what the technology gaps were," he says.

"The GPSRD grant enabled it to build on this expertise and really boost its competency, driving new products and new markets. It also demonstrated very clearly the value of R&D to a business's growth and was pivotal in establishing a R&D unit in-house."

Mr Simpson says the first 70 mowers are through the production line, with more expected out in the field as the summer haymaking season gets underway.

-ends

More information:

- Ross Simpson, Reese Agri, 06 357 9323

- John Gibson, Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, 04 917 7863 or 0800 832 469..www.technz.co.nz

Backgrounder Grants for Private Sector R&D

- Grants are targeted specifically to technologically aware SMEs (usually less than $50m turnover). The aim is to increase the level of private sector expenditure of R&D.

- Support of up to 33.3% of R&D costs, to a maximum of $100,000 is available for qualifying projects.

- Latest figures show that around $1.5m per month is being invested in private sector R&D projects by GPSRD.

- The scheme has allocated more than $18.9 million, to 326 companies, since it was launched in September 2000.

- GPSRD is the first of the Technology New Zealand schemes to operate exclusively via the Internet, with initial registration through its website, www.technz.co.nz.

Prepared for Technology New Zealand by Carrara Communications, 09 579 7270

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