NSW-based manufacturer ICT International has marked 40 years of operations with the opening of an expanded Armidale facility, bringing with it greater in-house capabilities, increased manufacturing capacity and an increase in regional jobs. The upgraded facility has enabled ICT to double its workforce and substantially increase its output to meet the demands of the international markets that it supplies.

Founded in 1980 by Susan and Peter Cull, ICT developed precision instruments to accurately measure, monitor and understand how water could make a significant difference to some of the major challenges in food production and land use – decades before the term “climate change” become part of everyday language.

A regional success story, ICT’s research & development program has allowed the organisation to design, develop, produce and export their quantitative monitoring technologies to some of the harshest environments across the globe. The company has worked collaboratively with leading soil, plant and environmental scientists in Australia and overseas and in the process have grown local skills, capabilities and employment opportunities in the region.

Found across the globe, ICT’s products have been installed to measure plant water use (via sap flow) and water stress (psychrometry), along with the effects of weather and environmental change in regions across the world including: the Amazon rainforests; California’s ‘tallest trees in the world’; mine sites in Australia and Peru; and trees growing on the permafrost in Northern Canada; and street trees in Germany.

Dr Peter Cull, now the Managing Director of ICT, says that the company’s success can be attributed to having a product wedded in scientific fact and building a trusted business network.

“From the outset, I knew that the relationship between our use of water for irrigation and the environment would become very important,” says Peter. “My PhD in irrigation monitoring gave me the scientific basis to pursue a practical means to prove how water use could be better managed to achieve better outcomes for primary producers. Now, the same technology is helping to understand climate change across the globe.

“What we have developed is world-leading, there is nothing like our products in the world, our technology is fitted to the smallest of rice plants to the largest 14 trees in the world and it has only been possible because we never deviated from the science and we always collaborated.”

Susan Cull, now Chief Executive Officer of ICT, adds: “In 1980 we dared to put a scientific soil moisture measuring device, a neutron probe, in the hands of farmers, to take soil moisture readings. We then told the farmer how to use a Hewlett Packard calculator to gain soil moisture readings. We did this and everyone said we were mad. From our point of view the farmers were managing the water resource and we learned from the beginning by supporting them we were able to build a business that still, to this day, has its first client – 40 years on.

“In business today, if you do not continue to innovate you will be left behind. ICT has never been afraid to innovate and collaborate, we have continually looked at how we can improve in light of new technology, or research. Today, we can remotely log into our clients’ monitoring results, hold a video conference, and manage our supply chains all from regional Australia and we are more resilient because of technology and partnerships we have.”

ICT’s unique family of digital sensors and dataloggers has been developed to measure key plant and soil parameters to advance research in the sector. They can be used to address physiological and yield limitations of plants to water stress, or ecosystem response to climate change. They can also be employed to evaluate plant genetics, and in commercial agriculture and horticulture to significantly increase yields and quality while reducing irrigation water use especially in tree crop and vine production. Commercial clients are building significant IP regarding the crop’s response to the environment, located in the “cloud”.

Recently ICT has been sharing its experience and insight for the benefit of other Australian manufacturers, by participating in the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC)’s Manufacturing Academy.

Michael Sharpe, Director of Industry at the AMGC said: “ICT International is a shining light in Australian manufacturing, demonstrating how great thinking, paired with research & development, collaboration and advanced manufacturing techniques can ensure a business can compete on a global scale and succeed.

“There is a reason ICT International feature on AMGC’s Manufacturing Academy about market reach. It is simply because they are good at it. The proof of this is the over 55 countries they export to and the countless long-term clients they have.”