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Success Stories

How 3 Australian businesses embrace tech innovation to solve challenges and thrive

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

These forward-thinking businesses are building a better Australia. It’s what made them winners in the Embracing Innovation category at the 2022 Telstra Best of Business Awards. Here, we explore how they innovate with technology to develop solutions for the challenges facing modern Australia.

Sam from Sea Forest standing in front of a river smiling.

COVID-19 sparked a small business boom, with innovation and technology at its core. But it can be tricky to remain at the cutting edge. Sea Forest in Tasmania, Digitally Buzzed in the Northern Territory and CIM in New South Wales continue to blaze a trail. While these businesses have vastly different approaches, their ability to innovate, pivot and scale has helped to solve problems and increase tech accessibility. Their visionary leadership saw Sea Forest crowned as the national winner and Digitally Buzzed and CIM awarded as state winners in Embracing Innovation category at the 2022 Telstra Best of Business Awards.

Sea Forest, Digitally Buzzed and CIM agree that their success lies in the ability to adapt and stay up-to-date with trends. Here’s how these three inspiring businesses are building a brighter future.

Sam Elsom, CEO of Sea Forest, and Dr Rocky de Nys, chief scientific officer of Sea Forest, with their 2022 Telstra Best of Business Awards.
Sam Elsom, co-founder and CEO, and Dr Rocky de Nys, chief scientific officer of Sea Forest.

Sea Forest, TAS

  • Became the first company in the world to commercially grow Asparagopsis, a native red seaweed that can significantly reduce livestock methane emissions.
  • Partnered with leading research teams across Australia and New Zealand to optimise the production of seaweed.
  • Developed multiple innovative solutions to support seaweed farming and processing and its suitability for a livestock feed additive.
  • Are dedicated to fighting climate change by setting their own targets – aiming to positively contribute to 0.43% of Australia’s 2030 Emission Reduction Target.

Sea Forest is an eco-tech company that grow Asparagopsis, a common red seaweed native to Tasmania. Small amounts of the seaweed are used as a livestock feed supplement, which greatly reduces methane emissions. Since co-founder and CEO Sam Elsom launched in 2018, Sea Forest has continued to set ambitious targets. Sea Forest’s vision is simple: create solutions that help fight climate change and generate more food with fewer resources. The company’s aim is to positively contribute to approximately 0.43% of Australia’s 2030 Emission Reduction Target.

Under the guidance of chief scientist Dr Rocky de Nys, Sea Forest invests heavily in research and development. Collaborations with the University of Tasmania, James Cook University and Waikato University have allowed the team to fast-track the commercialisation of their SeaFeedTM supplement. By combining tech and science, they’ve pioneered new ways to cultivate and harvest seaweed, which is grown in marine and land tanks, alongside a hatchery. They’ve also accelerated the Asparagopsis reproduction rate and improved the plant’s suitability for livestock feed systems. This combination of science and tech inform every decision Sea Forest makes.

Since 2020, Sea Forest have successfully supplied their SeaFeedTM supplement to multiple university trials and beef and dairy customers, including Fonterra and the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo). They’ve also teamed up with menswear brand MJ Bale on world-first production of carbon-neutral wool – achieved by feeding a Tasmanian flock of sheep the seaweed supplement.

Sea Forest are now at an exciting stage of commercialisation, which sees them working closely with a number of local and international customers.

Sea Forest embodies visionary leadership. Their passion for tackling climate change within Australia’s agricultural industry has pushed them to develop creative solutions. It touches every facet of their business, from their supply chain and marketing to their operations and production.

"Our diverse team is making the most remarkable progress in pioneering the development of a new industry for Australia in seaweed aquiculture. At the same time, we're also helping to de-carbonise our agricultural sector."

Sam Elsom, co-founder and CEO of Sea Forest
Bel Cook, founder and director of Digitally Buzzed, with her 2022 Telstra Best of Business Award.
Bel Cook, founder and director of Digitally Buzzed.

Digitally Buzzed, NT

  • Develop bespoke digital solutions to help businesses streamline their workflow and processes.
  • Build mobile apps that elevate engagement with events like the Darwin Street Art Festival and the Darwin Laksa Festival.
  • Create innovative technology experiences with Augmented Reality and drone light show software.

Digitally Buzzed is a digital agency paving the way for tech in the Northern Territory. The team of highly skilled software developers, app developers, digital producers and digital designers are always thinking of new ways to innovate. Founder and director Bel Cook launched the business in 2017, but it soon expanded and now develops virtual reality, augmented reality, and bespoke drone show software.

Digitally Buzzed like to bring a sense of play to their work. “I wanted to make new and rarely seen before technology,” Bel explains. “That inspired me to create drone show software.” A new concept for many Australians, the software programs up to 500 drones at a time to form breathtaking LED light shapes and patterns.

The group are behind some of the Northern Territory’s most show-stopping tech experiences. In 2020, Digitally Buzzed created an augmented reality app for the Darwin Street Art festival on behalf of the Northern Territory Government. The app turns street art murals into interactive experiences that allows participants to watch the artwork come to life on their screens. It encouraged COVID-Safe activities throughout the pandemic and increased attendance.

The agency loves working with local Northern Territory businesses. They also developed an interactive app for the Darwin Laksa festival. The app encouraged participants to try dishes at different restaurants and vote for their favourite. During the festival’s 4-week period, it boosted the local economy by 15%, providing much-needed support for small hospitality businesses.

During COVID they branched into new territory – helping bricks and mortar stores move online and hospitality businesses offer online ordering and delivery.

Post-pandemic, Bel has released new business offerings based on what she learnt over the period.

“I realised that making some custom solutions can take too long for us and for the client. A lengthy project can affect my cashflow. As a result, I created three off the shelf apps that clients can purchase and update content themselves in real-time.”

"My goal is to bring the Territory up with the times and generate jobs in the digital area."

Bel Cook, founder and director of Digitally Buzzed
CIM’s VP of Operations Janine Lee, and Head of Engineering Antonious Mickael, with their 2022 Telstra Best of Business Award.
CIM’s VP of Operations Janine Lee, and Head of Engineering Antonious Mickael.

CIM, NSW

  • Shifted perspectives on the use of data analytics to monitor large buildings and its importance, driving operational efficiency, superior financial performance and environmental impact.   
  • Developed the PEAK Platform: a building analytics tool that integrates building intelligence, machine learning and technical engineering support to improve efficiency, sustainability and comfort across sites and property portfolios.
  • Supported an industry wide pivot during COVID-19 to help building managers monitor and optimise their buildings whether working on-site or remotely.

CIM is a data analytics software provider that analyses buildings. Large buildings are complex and costly to manage and CIM helps building owners and stakeholders make better use of what they have on-hand to save money and reduce energy consumption. The company developed the PEAK Platform, a software that helps to interpret data and suggest solutions for optimum efficiency.

“When Australia’s major airports, shopping centres and commercial offices started closing in 2020, many building managers and owners realised that data was the only life raft for their businesses to survive,” says David Walsh, founder and CEO of CIM. It was a move that saw the company onboard 48 new buildings on the PEAK platform in seven weeks.

The platform integrates building analytics, artificial intelligence and technical engineering support and provides solutions to improve sustainability, efficiency and comfort.

A recent addition to the platform is PEAK Actions. “PEAK Actions brings together site teams, contractors and analysts to raise tasks, track progress and maintain a complete digital history of the building,” says David. “It helps reduce wastage and ultimately improves the economic and environmental performance of the building.”

By tapping into their client’s needs, CIM have helped to create long-term benefits for building managers and their tenants.

"In a year where COVID-19 shone the spotlight on the necessity to do more with what we already have in the built environment, the PEAK Platform shone through as a pioneering world-first technology solution."

David Walsh, founder and CEO of CIM

Sea Forest, Digitally Buzzed and CIM show that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to innovation. It’s about thinking differently and finding new ways to solve problems – whether that’s improving tech accessibility, reducing livestock methane emissions or encouraging a new level of building efficiency.

If you’ve got an innovative idea you’d like to develop, there are plenty of grants that can support you. Our article ‘How to find and apply for small business grants to future-proof your business’ steps you through the grant application process. If you’d like to learn more about how the right tech can support your business, the Telstra Business Intelligence report on Thriving in the Digital Age is a great place to start.

2023 Telstra Best of Business Awards

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