If necessity is the mother of invention, it’s no wonder that rural Australia has given birth to some of Australia’s most extraordinary innovations.

Story By Amanda Burdon

Growing up near York, in south-eastern Western Australia, fourth-generation farmers Shawn and Glen Ryan learnt how to be self-sufficient and creative. “You couldn’t just duck down to the local hardware shop; you had to know how to turn a spanner and put a few things together to get a broken-down machine moving again,” Shawn says. Their practical skills, work ethic and innate curiosity have certainly proven useful, as has their appreciation of a big shed.
When it came time to test the groundbreaking renewable technology they have devised – a converter that harnesses the power of ocean waves to generate electricity – they gravitated back to their parents’ wheat and sheep property. For three years they commandeered a corner of their father’s machinery shed, establishing a wave-testing tank alongside his harvester.
“We might be working in the space of engineering innovation, but there are many parallels with farming,” Shawn says. “Like farmers, we operate in a world of uncertainty and can’t control the variables. We don’t know whether our next grant application will be successful or if investors will support our idea. Much like farmers, we can only plan for the worst and hope for the best; give it a go and hope we reap a good harvest and don’t strike a drought.”
The testing period in the farm shed was vital to the development of the Bombora Wave Energy Converter system, which could revolutionise the sustainable energy sector. “We needed that time and space to let the idea evolve and grow,” Shawn says. “I guess our rural background has given us an inner belief that we can make it happen, and the strength and resilience to deal with whatever’s thrown at us."

This Story is from Issue #104

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2016