Two organic farmers from Nimbin, Andrew Bodlovich and Hogan Gleeson, invented a sustainable food production system that they hoped would help feed the world. Now they say they risk losing 20 years of work owing to a legal battle with "big business interests" that backed the technology, Hans Lovejoy writes in echo.net.au.
Blue Farms (the trading name of Urban Ecological Systems Ltd) produces commercial quantities of organic veggies and barramundi from the same commercial-sized greenhouse, essentially growing food in a closed eco-system that mimics nature.
Greg Legg-Bagg, a Byron Bay farmer, marketing exec, and investor in the technology, said: "This technology allows supermarkets to meet the high demand for organic and sustainable produce, but our licensee (now called Green Camel) has embroiled us in a prolonged and vexatious legal battle over intellectual property (IP). Their aim is to drag us through the NSW Supreme Court to bleed us of resources."
"Andrew and Hogan initially built a small scale R&D farm near Nimbin, using funds from 'family and friend' investors," Greg explains. "The R&D farm allowed the science of growing veggies and fish in a closed loop to be proven. It was the subject of a study, conducted through Southern Cross University (SCU), and it became the first integrated farming system of its type to be certified organic."
Andrew and Hogan went on to secure millions of dollars in government grants, including the largest Commercialisation Australia grant ever awarded – $1.9 million. Patents were awarded in all major markets. Sydney University entered into a research partnership and provided land for a commercial-scale farm.
Greg said: "Immediately after organic certification was granted, and completely out of the blue, Andrew and Hogan were shown the door and banned from the farm."
‘That’s when the shenanigans started. In 2015, an unknown party challenged our patent, which was successfully defended. In 2016, there was another challenge to the patent, which was successfully defended again. This time it became clear who was behind the challenges: the licensee, Green Camel."
Greg added: "The six-year legal battle has cost careers, homes, marriages, and millions in legal fees on both sides. Green Camel’s case against us continues. It’s terrible that Andrew and Hogan, who are salt of the earth idealists, should have their hopes and dreams destroyed. I’m reaching out to anybody in the Shire who will stand with me in support."
Read the complete article at www.echo.net.au.