Rocks Gone founder Tim Pannell (right) and Ballidu farmer Phil Mincherton stand with a Reefinator. Credit: Lauren Calvin
The burgeoning company behind the rock-crushing Reefinator machine has won the growth category of the WA Innovator of the Year Awards.
Rocks Gone, founded by former Chapman Valley farmer Tim Pannell, took out the accolade at a presentation ceremony in Perth last Wednesday.
Judges assessed Mr Pannell’s flagstone Reefinator machine, a hybrid design between a rock ripper and a rock roller released in 2014, and has been designed to be towed behind a tractor.
Mr Pannell said the machine’s key part was a heavy grate, which he said worked “a bit like a cheese grater” to “grate the rock” instead of trying to crush it.
The innovation award was another feather in the cap for Mr Pannell, whose business also scooped best new release at Newdegate Farm Machinery Field Days.
His Welshpool workshop is also manned full-time by his daughters Amy Pannell and Jo Pannell, while his youngest daughter helps out on university break. Mr Pannell’s journey into innovation came after he spent more than 30 years farming near Geraldton, where he faced various problems associated with rocky terrain. He was initially inspired to search for solutions to rocky soils on the internet.
After travelling to look at the existing machines, Mr Pannell eventually purchased a rotary rock crusher and started a contracting business crushing rocks on farms and gravel roads for local councils.
But he found the rotary crusher had its problems, so decided to develop his own concept — the Reefinator. Innovation and ICT Minister Dave Kelly congratulated Mr Pannell on his achievement.
“The WA Innovator of the Year program recognises companies and ideas that are reshaping our economy and creating new jobs for Western Australians,” he said.
“The McGowan Government is committed to supporting the innovation sector through initiatives such as this.”
Other winners were emerging innovation winner Safescape, encouragement award winner Picosat Systems, designing for excellence encouragement award Onesun and young innovator of the year Como Secondary College’s TOLKA. The Reefinator has previously been named best Australian-made machine at the Yorke Peninsula Days and best new release at Newdegate Machinery Field Days in 2015.