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Capital sought for plastic vineyard post project

Venture capital of $1.2 million is being sought from investors to commercialise the production and worldwide marketing of the patented Vertiplas vineyard post system (known as VPS). The VPS system has been developed over the past five years and has been trialled in a Yarra Valley vineyard and is called a ‘truly innovative fencing and trellising system’. Initially the VPS business to be conducted through a company named Vinetech Pty Ltd will focus on applying it to the viticulture industry. The VPS system is based on a moulded polymer post with strength and flexibility which can be installed in much the same way as a treated timber post The Information Memorandum prepared for prospective investors notes that while the vineyard industry has converted in large measure from manual picking to machine harvesting, the design of the posts has remained unchanged. “The treated pine posts currently used in most of the vineyards around the world are laborious and costly to install. “They are also inflexible which means they are often damaged during harvesting, pruning, re-wiring and other vineyard maintenance procedures which use mechanical processes. “Treated pine posts also represent an environmental hazard. “Since they are treated with toxic chemicals including arsenic they cannot be incinerated and chemicals from poorly treated posts can leach into the soil.” The Vinetech post concept has already been recognised having been a finalist in the 2001 Sensis Business Ideas Awards and has also received a $65,000 federally funded Government grant to further research and development. The trials conducted in the Yarra Valley employed prototype polymer posts over three seasons. The trials included post load and strength tests, physical installation method testing, machine interaction studies with mechanical harvesting, pruning and wire lifting processes. Although the posts were designed to replace traditional pine posts in vineyard Vinetech says that it has identified wider applications potential including rural fencing, olive and tomato trellising and even roadside marker posts. The VPS posts are flexible enabling machines to work closer to the posts than otherwise. This is claimed to increase grape yields by 3% to 7%. Installation is also believed to be significantly improved by a technique that involves a mechanised process of punching a hole and inserting the VPS post in a one-step process.

A claimed three to four posts a minute installation rate is expected. Yarra Valley vineyard consultant Chris Lowe, of Vineyard Services Pty Ltd, has reported on the trials with the prototype posts and has noted a number of benefits. These include increased yields as there is always a significant amount of fruit left on vines around a wooden post during mechanical harvesting, much less wear and tear on harvesters, no deterioration, breaks or wear on wires, strength enough to support a full canopy of vines and fruit, better fixing of trellis wire (as the prototype VPS post has wire fixtures moulded into the design) with the ability to easily lift wires using the preformed slots in the post. Market studies conducted by Vinetech indicate that the total market size for vineyard posts in Australia at 10.7 million posts a year while a preliminary study of the world wine industry has provided an estimated of 655,000 hectares of vineyards with 393 million posts. The $1.2 million in venture capital sought will fund a 15–18 month product development phase including manufacture of tooling for moulding the polymer post, manufacturing the prototype installation machine, protecting the intellectual property and general promotion and marketing. The investor will obtain up to a 40% equity in the project with a number of financial alternatives to increase, reduce or on sell the position. A spokesman for corporate advisor Kennedy Needham who is marketing the investment opportunity, Simon Ward, said he hoped that the capital raising would be completed by year end. For more information on the Vinetech VSP post project see www.kennedyneedham.com or contact Simon Ward on (03) 9602 5555.



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