A new tool to help revegetate mine sites and degraded agricultural lands has won the top prize at the 2016 WA Innovator of the Year awards.
The ‘seed flamer’, designed by researchers from The University of Western Australia and the Botanic Gardens and Parts Authority, won the Mitsubishi Corporation Emerging Innovation category at the ceremony held on Wednesday.
The awards are designed to promote and acknowledge the success of Western Australian innovators and provide future opportunities for collaborative research with industry and government.
The tool works by repeatedly exposing seeds to a flame inside a rotating drum in a precisely controlled fashion, allowing the fluffy appendages and hairs on the seeds to be carefully removed and making them easier to handle.
It is set to transform the way mine sites and agricultural land are rehabilitated.
Dr. Andrew Guzzomi, an agriculture engineer and assistant professor in UWA’s School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering, said the fluffy appendages and hairs on wild collected seeds make them bulky to store and transport and they stick together, making them difficult to sort and use in direct seeding machinery.
“Removing the appendages enables the application of artificial coatings to seeds to improve germination and allow precision machine sowing,” he said.
“Importantly, the exposure of the seeds to the flame is controlled to have the desired result without harming the seeds’ ability to germinate.”
Dr. Guzzomi collaborated with Dr. Todd Erickson from UWA’s School of Plant Biology and Dr. David Merritt, senior research scientist at the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority on the project.
The $25,000 prize money will be used to explore seed flaming of diverse plant species at a commercial scale in Australia and the USA for revegetation and rangeland management.
The ‘flash flaming’ device has been patented and a partnership to support the commercialisation of the invention is being offered through UWA’s Research Development and Innovation office.