Two Coast Innovators Share $830,697 in Federal Grants

Local News

A Coolum business creating software for the visually impaired and a North Arm business set to change the horticultural world with its all-climate vertical farming system are among only 24 businesses Australia wide to benefit from the Federal Government’s $11.2 million Entrepreneurs Programme this year.
“Only 24 businesses have been recognised throughout the country so to have two of them hail from the Sunshine Coast, within 22 kilometres of each other, is further proof that the Sunshine Coast is the innovation capital of Australia,” Mr O’Brien said.

“It’s great that these two businesses will be supported to undertake commercialisation activities to prove the viability of their ideas in the market place.

“Innovation is central to the government’s plan to grow the Australian economy and I’m delighted we can assist both Alkira Software and Vertical Farm Systems as they navigate what is so often a challenging stage of product development,” he said.

North Arm’s Vertical Farm Systems, which receives $447,697 has spent the past eight years developing a fully-automated farming system to commercially produce leafy greens and herbs for retail and wholesale markets.

Vertical Farm Systems Director John Leslie said the multi-level climate cells system supported farming in any climate or location world wide and only required a minimal water supply.

“The Federal Government’s Accelerating Commercialisation grant means we can install the first full-scale pilot system here on the Sunshine Coast,” Mr Leslie said.

Coolum based Alkira Software is also being supported with a $383,000 grant for further development of its Kira Web Assistant program helping visually impaired users navigate the Web.

For developer Ray Guy, the project started in an effort to solve a problem for a blind friend and has evolved into a universal solution.

“The innovation is in analysing the screen presentation like a sighted person does to identify the workflows,” Mr Guy explained.

Kira then remediates the workflows as lists of options which are presented on screen as audible text and easily navigated with arrow keys, voice or touch commands,” he said.

Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Arthur Sinodinos said innovation was vital to improving people’s lives by creating new businesses and helping existing businesses grow.

“Ultimately our policies are focused on helping Australians to put more money in their back pocket, through the creation of new jobs and better jobs,” Senator Sinodinos said.

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme’s Accelerating Commercialisation element offers support for entrepreneurs, researchers and businesses to address key challenges on the pathway to commercialisation.

To date, 234 Australian businesses have benefited from over $117.1 million in Australian Government funding, as well as support from experienced advisers, to help commercialise new products, processes and services.

For more information on how to apply for Entrepreneurs’ Programme commercialisation grant go to

Vertical Farm Systems

Alkira Software 

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