Innovate with nbn™ grants: the winners

15-minute read
After careful deliberation, the very worthy winners of the inaugural Innovate with nbn™ Grants Program have now been revealed…

As part of nbn’s commitment to regional and remote Australia, we recently partnered with the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) to deliver the Innovate with nbn™ Grants Program.

Offering grants totalling up to $95,000 across seven categories – agriculture, arts, education, health, indigenous business, tourism and women in regional business – the program aimed to help regional tech businesses transform their ideas into game-changing achievements.

Now, after careful consideration by our esteemed panel of judges, the very worthy winners can now be revealed…

Choosing the winners

With the high calibre of entries, the judges had their work cut out for them, says Gavin Williams, Chief Development Officer, Regional and Remote at nbn.

“Knowing that people are using the nbn™ network to innovate and explore new ways to do great things for the community or their business, we were expecting impressive submissions – and we weren’t disappointed.

“The applicants certainly made it difficult for our judging panel and should be commended for their innovation, creativity and commitment to regional, rural and remote Australia,” says Gavin.

Gavin Williams, Chief Development Officer, Regional and Remote at nbn.

The judges

Our inaugural judging panel for the Innovate with nbn™ Grants Program was made up of the following esteemed industry professionals:
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One of our judges, Catherine Liddle, CEO at First Nations Media.

And the winner is…

Congratulations to the following deserving winners who have each been awarded a $10,000 grant to help bring their innovation to life.

Agriculture

Black Box Co

A database and software solution for predictive agriculture in the beef industry.

Black Box Co forecasts production outcomes across the supply chain by using machine learning and a growing database of animal records to inform prediction algorithms.
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Shannon Speight, CEO at Black Box Co.

“Black Box Co is working to disrupt data flow within the beef industry,” says Shannon Speight, one of the company’s two female leaders.

Based in Mareeba, Queensland (Muluridji Nation), Black Box Co is looking to commercialise the machine learning component of its software.

This component involves using records from more than 340,000 animals to inform prediction algorithms to forecast production outcomes across the beef industry supply chain.

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These will include predictions on fertility, feedlot and carcase performance and, says Shannon, will be paramount to ensuring a more sustainable, proactive and profitable beef industry.

While the beef industry has key innovations that continue to generate more and more data, says Shannon, there’s a lack of data visibility and data interoperability between these data generators.

“This abundance of data within the industry can be combined to create far more powerful insights with the use of a cloud-based master database, smart data cleansing algorithms and machine learning algorithms for prediction and forecasting.

“This will allow the mass of data to drive real, on-farm and within-business decisions to raise the production and profitability of each aspect of the beef supply chain.”

How the Innovate with nbn™ grant will be used

Black Box Co will use the $10,000 grant to contribute towards increased cloud storage and cloud computational services to drive its algorithms and machine learning component.

Arts

Disability Club and DME3

A social media network and music streaming service for people who live with a disability.

Disability Club and DME3 help users to connect, share and network with like-minded people and, for musicians with a disability, build audiences, stream and sell their music.

“Disability Club aims to improve the social isolation people who live with a disability feel on a daily basis, especially in regional Australia,” says founder Nathan Johnston, who’s based in Bega Valley, New South Wales (Yuin-Monaro Nations).

“We have built this service to help people with disability to bridge the gap in this time of isolation particularly for those living in regional communities.”

The club includes a music streaming service, DME3, where musicians with a disability can upload and share their music.

“Due to the recent bushfire and then COVID-19, those with disabilities like many others have been struggling financially and emotionally,” says Nathan.

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Nathan Johnston, Founder of Disability Club and DME3.

The project aims to use ‘the significant positive change’ that the nbn™ network has made in regional Australia, says Nathan, to facilitate both a working platform and a recreational social outlet for those with disabilities.

“Fast, reliable internet is the lifeblood of business and is the connecting factor that facilitates vital social communication in country Australia. *

“This project will embrace that positive change and provide those with disabilities in regional Australia a voice and a platform to interact, to create, network and develop vital avenues of communication and support.”

How the Innovate with nbn™ grant will be used

Disability Club and DME3 will use the $10,000 grant to develop and code the Disability Club website, including plugins and associated themes, and to link it to the existing DME3 music streaming platform. The grant will provide funds to advertise via the Google Ad Network and promote the website through Search Engine Optimisation.

Education

Sunshine Butterflies

An information technology program for people who live with a disability.

The ‘Tech Connect’ program helps people living with an intellectual and/or physical disability in regional Queensland to learn technology-based skills including basic coding, flying drones and 3D printing.

Sunshine Butterflies, located in Cooroibah on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast (Kabi Kabi and Jinibara Nations), supports individuals and their families living with disability.

This includes through its 'Tech Connect' program, designed to help people living with an intellectual and/or physical disability learn new and exciting technology-based skills.

Participants work in small groups and learn skills including developing their own website, photography and videography, and building robots.

“These activities have allowed our members living with a disability to connect as a group, as well as share their creations with the broader community,” says Lucy Mills, who looks after Community Development and Grants at Sunshine Butterflies.

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The program, says Lucy, delivers unique and long-lasting benefits and life skills to people living with a disability.

“The overall change that the 'Tech Connect' program provides is an opportunity for people living with a disability to have safe and supported access to IT programs and activities.

“Individually, each participant can build on their IT skills, developing in areas that are of interest and use to them,” says Lucy.

“It’s designed to create an understanding of the technology around us and how we can use it in our everyday lives.”

How the Innovate with nbn™ grant will be used

Sunshine Butterflies will use the $10,000 grant to purchase four laptops, as well as 20 ‘Tech Connect’ branded t-shirts featuring the logo created during the program. The grant will also help fund the cost of an IT mentor to guide the weekly program in 2021.

Health

Adelaide Hills O&G

A digitally capable ultrasound machine for women in regional South Australia.

Adelaide Hills O&G is enabling access to scans previously only available in Adelaide by providing real-time streaming of tertiary level ultrasounds to city-based specialists for review.

Adelaide Hills O&G is the woman centred, multidisciplinary practice that provides expert and compassionate care to achieve optimal clinical outcomes for its patients.

“Our expanding medical practice offers specialist obstetrics and gynaecology services to rural South Australians,” says Dr Melanie Johnson, a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Mount Barker (Peramangk Nation)-based business.

Digital innovation in medicine can decrease service disparities in regional areas, says Melanie.

“Our practice is aiming to bring tertiary ultrasound services, previously available only by travelling to the metropolitan area, to the women of the Adelaide Hills and beyond.

“Mothers that have high risk pregnancies, and those requiring highly technical ultrasounds, have usually needed to travel to have these done.”

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Real-time scanning to be performed onsite, streamed via high speed broadband services over the nbn™ network, would be viewed in real-time by specialist sonologists, radiologists and maternal foetal medicine specialists. *

“Lowering the barrier for women to access specialist care locally has both social and economic benefits,” says Melanie.

“An ultrasound appointment ‘in the city’ can often take an entire day including travel.”

The World Health Organization charter, says Melanie, outlines that accessing the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human.

“The ability to extend that to a foetus in utero allows for care to begin even sooner. Women in rural areas should not be disadvantaged because of their distance from tertiary level ultrasound services.”

How the Innovate with nbn™ grant will be used

Adelaide Hills O&G will use the $10,000 grant to help purchase a Voluson digitally capable ultrasound machine.

Indigenous Business

WUNA (HoldAccess)

A digital wallet designed to provide instant access to information.

WUNA (HoldAccess) enables individuals to hold and easily access their identification and verified information, including existing proof of (Aboriginality) heritage certification for First Nations’ people, using the Diji-Wallet.

“WUNA (HoldAccess) has created a disruptive digital solution that provides instant access to information – a virtual locker at your fingertips – to access certificates and identification swiftly, built for employers and workers to streamline recruitment, onboarding, and industry compliance instantly,” says Jason Davis, CEO and Founder at WUNA (HoldAccess) based in Palmerston, NT (Larrakia Nation).

Called the ‘Diji-Wallet’, users can access identification and control their information any time in any environment, helping individuals to be work-ready with transferrable identification helping the authorised Diji-Cardholders (workers) to operate across multiple worksites.

“The Diji-Wallet as a document repository solves a problem for people who live regionally or without safe digital access to hold their information,” says Jason.

“It can be quite difficult to create economic opportunities when you lack digital access to your essential information or if it is held by third parties on your behalf, and access to it creates a further dependency on the welfare system.”

WUNA (HoldAccess) makes the transition for recruitment, employment and training inclusive of the individual. The Diji-Wallet works with ease, offering 24-hour access with or without mobiles or the internet on worksites where mobile phones are restricted, says Jason.

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Jason Davis, CEO and Founder at WUNA (HoldAccess).

“WUNA (HoldAccess) also offers an integrated Enterprise Software to help employers connect faster to their workers, building industry safe work cultures and significantly improving government tendering on procurement conditions.”

As a social impact solution, WUNA (HoldAccess) improves the position of job seekers and those in regional Australia enrolled in Community Development Programs with faster access to verified capabilities that empowers independently informed choices, says Jason.

For First Nations people, WUNA (HoldAccess) offers a national Diji-Card to display their existing proof of (Aboriginality) heritage certification required on government Indigenous procurement contracts – an essential for Reconciliation Action Plans, and improves Indigenous Land Use Agreements when negotiating employment and training opportunities.

“Many people lack access to identification and verified information. WUNA (HoldAccess) is a digital (Diji) tool to leverage capabilities for opportunities faster to give enterprises and individuals a better way to share secure and private information instantly,” says Jason.

“We believe WUNA (HoldAccess) will help increase the social fabric for the future of work in Australia and build regional economies with a solution to a much-needed problem of digital access.”

How the Innovate with nbn™ grant will be used

WUNA (HoldAccess) will use the $10,000 grant to help tweak its digital interface and take the solution to market as a lean and practical solution.

Tourism

Airguides

A tour operator offering trips created in partnership with high-profile Australian storytellers.

Airguides offers personalised packages incorporating content and recommendations from its storyteller partners, including photographers, filmmakers and chefs, taking care of all planning, bookings and support.

“Airguides is a unique tour operator where people can book trips created by trusted photographers, filmmakers and chefs in Oceania,” says Bibi Jellema, Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Airguides based in Burleigh Heads, QLD (Yugambeh Nation).

Focusing on responsible tourism, Airguides offers personalised trip packages and takes care of all planning, bookings and support, says Bibi.

Following the collapse of international tourism, the business pivoted to focus on regional tourism, allowing the company to reoperate and help the Australian tourism industry in its recovery.

“We will develop unique trips with our high-profile storytellers, aimed at attracting high-value travellers and driving revenue to local tourism businesses across Australia, including regional and Aboriginal operators.”

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Bibi Jellema, Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Airguides.

In partnership with the most trusted storytellers in the Oceania region, says Bibi, including National Geographic photographers, Tourism Australia ambassadors and celebrity chefs, Airguides creates authentic trips focusing on themes including nature, photography, food and wine, and cultural experiential travel.

“Our storyteller partners provide authentic content and recommendations for a multi-day trip, with the Airguides team taking care of all logistical elements, including planning, bookings and support.”

For every trip booking, says Bibi, the Airguides’ storytellers will earn a commission, creating an income stream for this group of talented creatives, allowing them to create more inspirational travel content to promote Australia.

These trip products will promote Australia in a unique, storytelling way, keeping destinations top of mind and attracting international visitors once restrictions ease, starting with Airguides’ existing customer base in New Zealand and the United States.

How the Innovate with nbn™ grant will be used

Airguides will use the $10,000 grant to help them: hire local talent; develop attractive, regional travel products; support administration and travel costs; deliver national and international marketing campaigns to target high-value travellers; and enable the business to strategically pivot to focus on regional tourism.

Women in Regional Business

Cattlesales.com.au

A companion app for Cattlesales.com.au

The Cattlesales App offers an enhanced user experience to help rural and regional livestock agents, agencies, beef producers and businesses increase their revenue, while also supporting digital advancement in the industry.

Cattlesales has respectfully championed digital innovation and adoption in the beef industry, says Elisha Parker, co-founder of Cattlesales.com.au, based in Queensland’s Normanton and Clermont (Kukatj Nation).

Now, the Cattlesales App Project aims to grow its current digital capabilities even further.

“The platform offers the Australian cattle industry every marketing tool, technology and solution to advertise cattle nationwide quickly, conveniently and cost-effectively,” says Elisha.

“The benefit of Cattlesales being an online platform provides a quick and easy way for livestock agents to market cattle, and for buyers to find cattle resulting in increased competition, quicker turnover, higher sale prices and greater market exposure, resulting in value flowing back to primary producers and livestock agents.”

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Elisha Parker and Annabelle Spann, co-founders of Cattlesales.com.au

The companion app would see the expansion and growth of Cattlesales and result in the employment of additional staff, says Elisha.

“Our digital advancement of industry was recently evident in the COVID-19 pandemic when saleyards faced the situation of holding sales without buyers attending.

“We had more saleyard cattle than ever advertised on our site to generate great market reach and reach buyers who could not physically attend saleyards.”

How the Innovate with nbn™ grant will be used

Cattlesales will use the $10,000 grant to help develop the Cattlesales App Project – to scope, design and commence the build of an app using the latest technology to heighten the digital experience with ease at the user’s fingertips.  

Innovate with nbn™ Champion

(WUNA) HoldAccess

In addition to receiving the $10,000 grant for the Indigenous Business category, WUNA (HoldAccess) has also been recognised as the overall Champion, receiving a further $25,000 grant.

Learn more about WUNA (HoldAccess) from the man behind the winning submission, Jason Davis.

About WUNA (HoldAccess)

“WUNA (HoldAccess) is a software platform that is highly agile and ideally suited for three key consumer groups: Employable Workforces, Migrants, and First Nations People.

“WUNA (HoldAccess) solves a major problem for First Nations peoples' – national cultural heritage identification (Proof of Aboriginality), which is a requirement for government procurement conditions.

“Presently, there are many inconsistencies in the requirements for First Nations peoples to prove Aboriginality. Getting an Aboriginality certificate can be understandably frustrating and disheartening for First Nations peoples.

“While enterprises tender for government procurement, they are also at risk of identity fraud by people rorting the system and industries without the appropriate information on certification.

“WUNA (HoldAccess) transforms the strongest national proof of Aboriginality with an agile accessibility tool designed to provide instant industry competencies from anywhere.

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Jason Davis, CEO at WUNA (HoldAccess).

“We are also helping Native Title groups and Prescribed Body Corporates to achieve greater levels of autonomy by increasing capabilities for employment and when designing meaningful agreements for the Indigenous Land Use Agreements.

“We are the first to encapsulate a tool that is highly practical for employment and the enterprises at risk of non-compliance breaches and information fraud.”

The inspiration

“What inspired me to create WUNA (HoldAccess) was seeing missed opportunities constantly in people's lives that could have been the difference between disparity and parity.

“When people lacked the ability to hold onto their certified capabilities and identification, or opted for third parties to control it on their behalf, it meant third parties were controlling personal privacy of information and leaving individuals at risk of being locked out from their capabilities.

“For individuals, it removes their self-determination and the ability to gain career growth opportunities for skills and employment.”

The importance of WUNA (HoldAccess)

“It was clear that many people are not fully immersed in using digital tools, like emailing for communication or data storage systems, to manage personal documents.

“Having the ability to make informed choices is a basic human right – without control of your personal information, it lowers your capabilities and competencies.

“WUNA (HoldAccess) provides people with a strong socio-cultural identity to increase self-worth and access meaningful opportunities.”

On winning Innovate with nbn

“To win the Innovate with nbn™ grant is an extremely satisfying experience – to have built something truly meaningful for everyday people and transform the way they access positive equity through a digital platform that packs a punch in human rights and where everyone wins!

“Winning these grants will help promote my business, giving me the ability to elevate the value within the marketplace, saving me years of hard work climbing to the top of the hill – the nbn™ network can help lift me there much faster.

“As a First Nations founder, I feel very privileged to win the Innovate with nbn™ grants.

“It gives me validation that all of the hard work was worth it. Bootstrapping, using my personal investment to grow my business and without a salary for almost three years, it provides me with great confidence and hope in all I have achieved to date for my resilience to persevere.”

On what’s next

“I hope to soon be in a greater position to roll out our deployment strategy to Australia's Native Title Groups, enterprises that procure government contracts, and labour hire enterprises.

“We also have plans to address workforce COVID health assessments and health vaccinations, placing access to critical health data into the hands of individuals.

“And we’re focused on providing an equitable toolkit that’s highly useful for international communities who live in poverty, or those who have faced natural disasters left without accessibility to their self-worth. They will have the opportunity to rebuild much faster with WUNA (HoldAccess).”

Jason’s advice to others wanting to start or grow their business

“I would say go for it... plan well and be resilient. Nothing is impossible today!”

Congratulations to all our worthy winners, and a big thank you to everyone who applied to the Innovate with nbn™ Grants program.

We look forward to bringing you updates from our winners in future blogs as they embark on or continue their digital journeys.

* nbn is very happy with Disability Club and the other winners’ experience with the nbn™ network. Of course, end customer experiences may vary. An end customer’s experience, including the speeds actually achieved over the nbn™ network, depends on the nbn™ access network technology and configuration over which services are delivered to their premises, whether they are using the internet during the busy period, and some factors outside of nbn’s control (like their equipment quality, software, chosen broadband plan, signal reception, or how their provider designs its network). Speeds may also be impacted by the number of concurrent users on the nbn™ Fixed Wireless network, including during busy periods. Satellite end customers may also experience latency.
Header image: Annabelle Spann and Elisha Parker, Cattlesales.com.au