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Electric 4WD wins $20K in business competition

Thu, 09 Sep 2004

Electric 4WD wins $20K in business incubator competition

Plans for an electric all terrain vehicle with potential in the local and overseas markets got a $20,000 boost after winning Up-Start, a business start-up competition.

Landcrab is aimed at the growing local and international lifestyle block market. The developers say the 4WD electric vehicle will have comparative capabilities to conventional 'ATV' vehicles without the safety, pollution, usability and cost disadvantages of quad-bikes or ride-on mowers.

Robert Knight and Bruce Polwart will receive up to three years of incubation time at AUT's Technology Park, valued at approximately $20,000. This includes professional office space and services; a tailored rapid development programme that will include business and specialist coaching, collaboration with AUT research institutes (where relevant), investment readiness, education events and networking opportunities. Landcrab will also be profiled in Unlimited magazine, co-sponsor of the competition.

Robert Knight, a small vineyard and physiotherapy business owner who lives in Matakana, near Warkworth, came up with the idea while assisting on a neighbour's plot.

"I was working on my neighbour's grapes when I noticed he would drive for ten metres, get off for 12 seconds to tend to some vines and then do it over again. I remember thinking it was a ridiculous way to use a petrol engine."

Robert then discussed the idea of an electric all terrain vehicle with film technician and business owner Bruce Polwart, who took a golf cart, modified and tested it.

"It worked perfectly - we showed it to my neighbour and he was blown away. A month later a local orchard owner tried it out and bought it of us immediately," says Robert.

Both were shocked when their names were announced as winners.


"It's totally new ground for us. We were surprised to make the final and expected the winner to be an entry with an IT focus."

The competition aimed to encourage entrepuneurs with high growth, technology based ideas to contribute to New Zealand's emerging knowledge economy, says AUT Tech Park Marketing Director, Tara Lorigan.

"We had close to 50 entries submitted and the majority were impressive in terms of their use of technology, innovation and commercial potential. We are confident the five finalists have great potential as tech-oriented business start-ups." All of the finalists will be offered places in AUT Technology Park's business incubator programme.

Chair of the panel of judges, former Auckland University School of Business Dean and currently chairman of the AUT Tech Park Advisory Board Professor Alastair MacCormick, said the product had a real niche in a market where safety issues affected existing vehicles such as ride-on mowers and quad-bikes.

"It struck the panel that they had thought through the idea well and that it met the needs of the lifestyle block market."


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