Looking back, I think of the speed we were able to achieve to move from our first prototype to international validation and manufacturing at scale – it’s happened incredibly quickly.
Hamish Elmslie, CEO of Wine Grenade Hamish Elmslie, CEO of Wine Grenade
Two years of R&D before exporting
Wine Grenade, which won the Velocity $100k Challenge in 2014, spent the first two years on research and development (R&D) before going commercial in 2017. The company was started by five Master of Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship graduates, Elmslie, Jonathan Boswell, Philip Cockrell, Jorg Kampschreur and Mike Moore, and they worked with Plant and Food Research to find other uses for Plant and Food’s device that released ethylene gas to ripen bananas while in transit in shipping containers. The Plant and Food technology enabled the low release of the gas over an extended period of time.
After studying more than 30 possible applications, the Wine Grenade team settled on the wine industry. 'It took us eight months to produce the first working prototype and we completed a three-month proof-of-concept trial in Hawke’s Bay in 2015. That was followed by a nine-month commercial trial in the United States during 2016,' says Elmslie.
Wine Grenade has exported its micro-oxygenation devices to Australia, United States, Canada, France, Spain and Belgium, and is planning new business in Chile, Argentina and South Africa.
Wine Grenade has supplied devices to Montpellier and Toulouse in France and it plans to expand into the famous Bordeaux region early in 2018. 'The French are already familiar with the role that oxygen plays in wine maturation and we have had a good response from them to our technology – better than anticipated,' says Elmslie.
There are also prospects in the spirits business – Wine Grenade’s device is soon to be trialled in the production of tequila in Mexico.
How ATEED helped
Wine Grenade reached the commercial stage with strong support from Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), which facilitated Callaghan Innovation Getting Started and Project grants, and NZTE business capability vouchers.
Wine Grenade is planning another round of R&D to create two variations of the existing device – one best suited to large-scale wine producers and another designed specifically for maturing spirits. Another new device will focus on providing more data and more insights for winemakers.
Elmslie says ATEED was very helpful in establishing connections for IP protection and R&D funding. ATEED also introduced Wine Grenade to other manufacturing companies which shared their experiences.
'When you’re just getting started there’s a heck of a lot to learn - one of the best ways is to talk with those who have been through the same challenges and already learned the hard lessons,' says Elmslie.
'Looking back, I think of the speed we were able to achieve to move from our first prototype to international validation and manufacturing at scale – it’s happened incredibly quickly.'
At a glance
Wine Grenade’s business: Patented a micro-oxygenation device (the grenade) that gives winemakers more control and flexibility in maturing their red wines.
Location: Headquartered in Avondale, Auckland.
Export markets: Australia, United States, Canada, France, Spain, Belgium, Chile, Argentina, South Africa.
ATEED assisted by: Making connections for IP protection and funding, including Callaghan Innovation R&D grants and NZTE business capability vouchers. Also made introductions to other manufacturing companies.