Inventing a footwear biosecurity system for farms

Rusty Knutson and Jacqui Humm with their Mondiale Innovation Award from the 2018 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards. Photo: Catherine Fry.

Hamilton husband-and-wife team Rusty Knutson and Jacqui Humm have invented a compact, portable system to clean and disinfect footwear before entering farms, orchards and nurseries.

The idea came from Rusty’s 15 years of international travel “where I had the opportunity to observe the differences in biosecurity in a range of farming systems all over the world”.

From New Zealand, while supporting a team in the UK, he observed the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak. The emotional and financial devastation experienced by the affected communities left a lasting impression on him.

In 2016, Rusty’s work required him to visit more than 10 farms a day. He was very aware of the potential risk he posed to biosecurity.

“I was using a fish bin, hand sprayer and a brush, which was difficult, awkward, and after a while, dirty,” says Rusty.

This inspired him to look for something better, and when his research provided no solutions the couple decided to make their own.

The invention draws on Jacqui’s communications and marketing background, and Rusty’s extensive experience in agriculture-related businesses domestically and overseas.

Recently the couple won the Mondiale Innovation Award at the 2018 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, for their footwear biosecurity system, named the Jacson Cube.

The couple says the Jacson Cube is a compact, portable system to clean and disinfect footwear before entering farms, orchards and nurseries. It considers health and safety requirements, and helps minimise the risk of spreading pests, diseases and weed seeds between properties.

“New Zealand has a strong biosecurity border, but as risks increase all land-based businesses will need a border too. We need at least two layers of defence,” says Jacqui.

The Government’s new biosecurity campaign strategy ‘Ko Tātou This Is Us’ is to recruit all 4.75 million New Zealanders to work together to protect us from biosecurity risks.

“That’s a lot of people to get on board, so we reckon NZ’s 2000 rural professionals can show leadership and set the example for primary industry businesses,” says Jacqui.

“Using the cube is a visible and quick first step, setting the tone from the start of a farm visit, taking away any awkwardness of expectations surrounding biosecurity on both sides.

“We also import a German product, enabling farmers to provide another washing system on the farm for visitors to use before leaving, effectively leaving a farm’s contaminants contained on that farm,” says Rusty.

The message is clear: ‘Clean on. Clean off. Every time’ – and Jacqui and Rusty believe their invention will help NZ be ready and resilient to biosecurity threats.


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