Austin Ryan, still cultivating ideas
Another honour for Warracknabeal inventor
JENNY SHAND | 26 JAN 2001
TOP HONOR: Farm machinery inventor and OAM recipient Austin Ryan of Warracknabeal
WIMMERA farm machinery inventor Austin Ryan’s eyes light up. He sits up straight and chuckles.
“I’ve always been keen on making things – crumbs yes!” the 75-year-old inventor says.
“Back when I was a kid coming home from school I started making things. The first was a wind light before the power came through.
“The neighbours had one and I didn’t know much about electricity, but I got it made with bits and pieces and got a little bit of light for a while.”
Now 60 years on, the Warracknabeal inventor is being honoured for his vision and tenacity. Today Mr Ryan joins a celebrated group of Australians receiving Australia Day honours.
Mr Ryan has won a prestigious Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the rural cropping industry as an inventor of crop farming equipment and through introducing innovative growing methods. The medal, for eminent achievement and merit of the highest degree, is in the general division.
Mr Ryan has invented farming machinery for almost four decades, his first breakthrough being a wideline cultivator. A spring-release cultivator followed in 1961 and the ideas kept flowing. He designed a new air seeder in 1977 and, in 1990, developed the deep banding of fertilisers which increased crop yields by more than 300 per cent.
Mr Ryan has taken out 33 patents in various countries, of which 26 are Australian.
The inventor moved from a workshop on the family’s Beulah farm to business premises at Warracknabeal in 1973 and the Ryan manufacturing business gathered strength. The Warracknabeal business disbanded about seven years ago.
“I started developing in 1960 but I had nothing to work with — no power and no welders,” Mr Ryan says.
“I laboured away with an old forge and a 32-volt drill. Things are certainly easier now. There’s power and you can do something. Those early days were hopeless,”
Mr Ryan takes pleasure from his inventions which have netted him regional, state, national and international awards. The awards are fine, he says, but the knowledge that his designs have helped farmers is even better.
“The biggest thing about what I was doing was helping farmers cut costs and increase their yields,” Mr Ryan says.
“When I developed this deep-banding seeding system, that was something. And that was one of my greatest achievements, helping increase yields.”
Mr Ryan, Australian Inventor of the Year in 1991, then won the Inventor of the Year in the USA the same year.
“They reckoned my deep-banding system would revolutionise farming in America,” he says.
“I still hold the Australian record for a wheat crop with it, 47 bags to the acre, grown in SA. As far as I know it’s never been bettered.”
Mr Ryan is still designing, still taking out patents and still cultivating further ideas,
“My wife Doreen used to get a bit bored stiff with me being out in the workshop until lam every night,” he says.
“But she still puts up with me!”