Ignite Ideas Fund helps commercialise humane cane toad tadpole control solution

Fri, 03/02/2023 - 07:30

Watergum is a not-for-profit charity with a strong business focus that helps people to gain skills, knowledge and a better understanding of the environment. One of the ways they do this is by offering the public a humane way to capture and remove cane toad tadpoles from waterways.

Watergum’s cane toad tadpole traps and lures are a simple yet effective cane toad tadpole control solution. The lures are made from the toxic glands of adult cane toads, which enables them to use the cane toads’ own toxicity against them.

Watergum is a Round 9 Ignite Ideas Fund recipient receiving $200,000 to commercialise their innovative product.

We asked Watergum’s president, Wal Mayr, about Watergum and how the Ignite Ideas Fund grant is helping the business grow.

What inspired you to start your business?

We wanted to create an organisation that used business as an engine to improve the environment. Cane toads are an environmental disaster; their populations continue to increase with very few control options available to the public.

The University of Queensland developed a method of cane toad tadpole control that can safely and effectively remove thousands of tadpoles from waterways without impacting native species, which gained worldwide recognition through a TED Talk. Given that this approach fits perfectly with our vision, we negotiated an exclusive licence to distribute the lures and then we designed and built a purpose-built trap to work with the lures.

Our inspiration was to make this technology as accessible as possible to all regions of Australia that are impacted by cane toads and to make a real impact on cane toad numbers nationally.

What milestones have been reached?

Watergum has:

  • negotiated the commercialisation rights and procured a patent to the lure technology
  • commissioned the design and production of steel moulds to produce an injection-moulded tadpole trap
  • developed a partnership with a national retail company to distribute the traps and lures
  • developed a nationally acclaimed cane toad control program, which facilitates the collection and donation of adult cane toads for lure production as an in-kind citizen scientist contribution.

What achievements are you most proud of to date? 

As a team we are all immensely proud of each other for the passion, determination, and hard work it has taken us to get to this stage. Watergum is a unique organisation – a not-for-profit and registered charity which functions like a business due to the dedicated input from its volunteer committee and hard-working employees. We are proud that we were able to develop this idea, turn it into a reality and enter the commercial market to provide a solution to one of Australia’s most troubling environmental conundrums – cane toads.

What are your business goals over the next 12-24 months?

In 2023, Watergum successfully launched the Cane Toad Tadpole Trap and Lure system to the public. Since then, we’ve seen thousands of traps and lures in action across the country, effectively breaking the breeding cycle of cane toads and slowing population growth. In addition, our engaged toad-busting community has removed almost half a million adult cane toads!

The Watergum team has grown with the addition of our Invasive Species Project and Support Officers, who are working hard to commercialise the trap and lures as well as educating and engaging Australians to control this invasive pest. We continue to improve our program and are currently investigating new products to expand our suite of accessible tools for cane toad control.

How will you use your Ignite Ideas funding?

Watergum’s Ignite Ideas funding is helping to facilitate the sales and marketing requirements of our products and ensure their commercial success.

How will this funding assist your business to grow and/or create jobs?

The technical basis of Watergum’s cane toad products has been achieved. We have spent three years negotiating agreements, designing, and building the traps and producing lures. The critical time was to launch our products into the marketplace.

The Ignite Ideas funding came at an ideal time to help us hire more sales and marketing resources to ensure the next two years was a success. This allowed Watergum to further expand operations.

Why would you recommend applying for Advance Queensland programs, such as the Ignite Ideas Fund?

Advance Queensland and the Ignite Ideas Fund truly want to see your business succeed and it’s evident, even in the early stages of our acceptance, that they offer genuine and dedicated support for you to achieve your goals. In addition to the funding, Advance Queensland offers a full service of business guidance for emerging businesses, and we couldn’t be more grateful for their wholesome contribution to our vision.

If any, what other support have you received from Advance Queensland or the Queensland Government?

As a not-for-profit organisation, Watergum has been successful in receiving funding from the Queensland Government for other projects that involve engaging the community for data collection for the preservation and conservation of endangered species and we consider the Queensland Government as a partner to our organisation. However, the Ignite Ideas Fund will be the first funding we have received to help us as a commercial enterprise. 

Why is it important to support Queensland businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs?

It’s important that Queenslanders work together to achieve common goals and we all have a common goal of economic prosperity for our state. Businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs keep the economy vibrant and growing with every Queensland citizen relying on them in some way or another. It’s important to support those who have the ideas, skills and determination to convert them into reality.

What’s your advice for other entrepreneurs and businesses starting out on their innovation journey?

Planning is paramount; even in the very early days we brainstormed likely scenarios and we always quantified likely revenue and costs into the future. With application and determination, it was amazing how these plans came to fruition. Through the process of implementation of the plans, new opportunities arose which helped our business case and helped us realise even more ambitious goals.

We have a very close team with complementary skills and mutual respect. Planning was key but the passion and determination to implement our plans is what achieved success for Watergum.

Do you have an innovative idea with potential? Learn more about the support available to startups and scaleups on the Innovation Journey.

Last updated 07 Nov, 2023
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