13.8 C
Byron Shire
May 25, 2024

IP dispute over aquaponics invention

Latest News

Surfing on the spectrum – free fun for everyone at Lennox and Byron this Sunday

Ocean Heroes will be giving children who are on the autism spectrum the chance to experience what it is like to be in the ocean on a surfboard this Saturday at Lennox Head and Sunday in Byron Bay.

Other News

Adam says it’s time for a Sunday bus for north Byron Shire

As many people are aware, there is no public transport in the north of Byron Shire on Sundays, making it difficult for people, young people in particular, to get to where they want to go. Adam Luck has decided to take action on this problem. 

Angels Beach Drive, East Ballina temporarily closed today

Angels Beach Drive, East Ballina has been temporarily closed due to a broken water main just north of Prospect Bridge.

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Why are we so blasé about violent pornography?

Why is it a turn on to hurt us? Recent intersectional studies have shown that online misogyny and violent pornography are contributors to a sharp rise in domestic violence. In NSW alone, police attend 500 incidents every day. If there were 500 threats or incidents at banks, or to the government, we would be in a state of emergency. Instead we stop, shake our heads, we listen to good men in government speak empty words, make a few promises, and move on. If you’ve ever lived through violence, it’s pretty well what your abuser does after hitting you.

NSW Gov’t promises to fast-track super battery storage

State government investment in major battery projects across NSW is to be increased and fast-tracked, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Penny Sharpe said on Wednesday.

Spice Palace: a mecca for Middle Eastern dips and spice mixes

Victoria Cosford The business was a natural fit for Bec and Tom, new owners for the past few months, of...

Getting groovy with Ino

Originally from NZ, Ino Pio is proud to have called the Northern Rivers home for the last decade. When visiting Byron Bay or Ballina you will be sure to see him playing around town.

Early trial crops of basil. Photos supplied

Two organic farmers from Nimbin, Andrew Bodlovich and Hogan Gleeson, invented a sustainable food production system that they hoped would help feed the world. 

Now they say they risk losing 20 years of work owing to a legal battle with ‘big business interests’ that backed the technology.

Back in 2006, Andrew and Hogan demonstrated their invention on ABC TV’s New Inventors program.

Judge and agricultural expert, Chris Russell, said at the time, ‘This is potentially a very significant invention’.

Blue Farms (the trading name of Urban Ecological Systems Ltd) produce commercial quantities of organic veggies and barramundi from the same commercial sized greenhouse, essentially growing food in a closed eco-system that mimics nature, without using traditional fertilisers or pesticides.

Ewingsdale-based farmer and investor, Greg Legg-Bagg. Photo supplied

Greg Legg-Bagg, a Byron Bay farmer, marketing exec and investor in the technology told The Echo, ‘This technology allows supermarkets to meet the high demand for organic and sustainable produce, which is experiencing double digit growth. That’s what makes it so valuable and worth fighting over’.

He says Coles Supermarkets entered into a five year supply agreement before the first commercial scale farm was even built. 

‘Woolworths’ Macro Wholefoods is now being supplied. Woolworths were so impressed that they awarded a grant of $250,000 from their $30 million Organic Growth Fund.

Greg says, ‘But our licensee (now called Green Camel) has embroiled us in a prolonged and vexatious legal battle over the intellectual property (IP). Their aim is to drag us through the NSW Supreme Court to bleed us of resources’.

‘Andrew and Hogan initially built a small scale R&D farm near Nimbin, using funds from “family and friend” investors.’ 

Aerial view of expanded facility. Photo supplied

Greg explains, ‘The R&D farm allowed the science of growing veggies and fish in a closed loop to be proven. It was the subject of a study, conducted through Southern Cross University (SCU), and it became the first integrated farming system of its type to be certified organic’. 

‘Andrew and Hogan went on to secure millions of dollars in government grants, including the largest Commercialisation Australia grant ever awarded – $1.9m’. 

‘Patents were awarded in all major markets.

‘Sydney University entered into a research partnership and provided land for a commercial scale farm.

‘But Andrew and Hogan needed investors with deep pockets to fund the new $8 million greenhouse which would prove that the technology could be scaled up to supply commercial quantities of organic produce to the major supermarkets’. 

Greg told The Echo, ‘Blue Farms was introduced to a local property developer, Adam Steel, and his wealthy father-in-law, Bob Cowper’.

‘Bob was a famous Aussie test cricketer, and later part of John Elliot’s executive team at Elders IXL. Bob later brought in some wealthy mates as investors as well.’

‘Enough money was secured to establish a new business (Green Camel) that would build and operate a half hectare greenhouse under license from Andrew and Hogan’s company (Blue Farms)’. 

‘The farm was built, the first crops grown, and a significant milestone achieved – organic certification. This was another industry first. The farm could now command a premium price for its organic certified produce, as well as sell fresh barramundi’.

So what went wrong? 

Greg said, ‘Immediately after organic certification was granted, and completely out of the blue, Andrew and Hogan were shown the door and banned from the farm.’ 

‘That’s when the shenanigans started. In 2015, an unknown party challenged our patent. That challenge was successfully defended.  In 2016, there was another challenge to the patent, which was successfully defended again. This time it became clear who was behind the challenges: the licensee, Green Camel’.

The expanded facility. Photo supplied

Misrepresentation

‘In 2018, Green Camel submitted a patent application, claiming that the technology was their intellectual property’. 

‘In 2016, Green Camel commenced legal proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court against Blue Farms and Andrew and Hogan personally claiming ‘misrepresentation’. 

Greg told The Echo, ‘In response, Blue Farms filed a cross claim, and sought a court order that Green Camel ‘cease and desist’ using their IP, because the original license agreement had been repudiated by Green Camel.’

‘To date, Green Camel has received many millions of dollars of funding from Australian taxpayers, via federal government grants. The purpose of these grants is to foster innovation, yet Green Camel have spent huge amounts of money on aggressive legal action against the inventors’.

The Echo put all claims by Mr Legg Bagg to Green Camel chairman, Adam Steel. 

He replied, ‘Green Camel is a small company that has developed technology making it a leader in Australia in producing organic food in glasshouses’.

‘Mr Legg Bagg has expressed a number of opinions and stated facts which Green Camel considers incorrect and presents a very “one sided” version of past events. Owing to the ongoing dispute in the Supreme Court, we are not at liberty to make detailed comment. We do however, note that productive out of court discussions are continuing at present between the boards of Urban Ecological Systems and Green Camel’.

Greg added, ‘The six year legal battle has cost careers, homes, marriages and millions in legal fees on both sides. Green Camel’s case against us continues’.

‘It’s terrible that Andrew and Hogan, who are salt of the earth idealists, should have their hopes and dreams destroyed.  I’m reaching out to anybody in the Shire who will stand with me in support.’

Greg can be contacted at [email protected].

Previous articleElephant in Byron Shire
Next articleF***ked

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

2 COMMENTS

    • ….and that system, of hydroponics and aquaculture has been perfected in Asia for a thousand years, but i suppose they never thought to patent such a community asset.
      Cheers, G”)

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Wardell landowners asked to support fire ant eradication

Nearly 900 Wardell properties require treatment for fire ants, but the eradication team needs permission from each landowner.

The Darling Muffs of May need your help to reach fundraising target

Raising money to support frontline services for women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness has been the driving force behind the Darling Muffs of May’s fundraising this year.

Why does Iron Gates developer get another bite at the DA?

Locals, concerned residents and other parties were left in the dark for the first 15 minutes of the Iron Gates (Goldcoral Pty Ltd) Land...

Death and Dying expo May 25

On Saturday May 25, a free Death and Dying expo will be held at the Mullumbimby Civic Hall from 10am-2pm.