Shaken, creative and perfectly engineered


Stirred, shaken, neat, on the rocks, with a twist, straight up, with a kick or dirty. And that’s just to get the creative juices flowing. In 2013, earthquakes, entrepreneurship and engineering were mixed together in a cocktail of innovation. Mother nature had made a visit to Marlborough and like a good night out, left many with a pretty big hangover. This was certainly true of winery owners who saw their beloved wineries damaged in front of their eyes.

Witnessing this phenomenon unfold was a group of entrepreneurial engineers from Christchurch who live for the challenge of solving technical problems. To these guys, the damaged wine tanks presented an opportunity to stretch their minds, test their engineering capabilities and push limits. History convincingly demonstrates that combining entrepreneurship with engineering, more often than not, equals progress. It started with the wheel and its never stopped. In this case, it started with a forensic analysis of why wine tanks in Marlborough wineries had incurred so much damage. It finished with an innovative new seismic anchoring system being offered to the market. That system is now being rolled out across the wineries of New Zealand and California. Two pin up poster locations for seismic activity.

Factoid: “The San Andreas fault line in California is the longest in the world. It sits between the Pacific and North American plates and measures 1300kms.” Paglin, M. 2016

Now, back on point. Progressing new technologies isn’t easy, and achieving a quantum leap is even more challenging, but that’s what happened in Marlborough. With the invention of Onguard, winery owners finally have access to an advanced seismic system. It’s being called the ultimate safeguard and it is. Bringing the product to market wasn’t easy. It hasn’t been all Mojitos, Manhattans and Martinis. At Otago University they teach Master of Entrepreneurship students to expect a failure rate of nine out of ten. That shows you how hard it is to get an idea off the ground. There are a gazillion reasons not to do almost anything.

Despite the odds, Onguard is alive and well and protecting wine tanks. It’s a great New Zealand success story and it’s a powerful case study in how to identify a problem, develop a solution, validate a market and commercialize a new technology. Onguard has provided a real time lesson for all innovators in ‘how’ you do it. It’s the kind of innovative venture the New Zealand government (and many others) are trying desperately to encourage. Interestingly, sometimes, it just comes down to an attitude, an entrepreneurial attitude and that can’t easily be grafted on, conjured up, or invented. It lives in the culture of the organization…or it doesn’t. At Onguard it lives.

The net result and well deserved reward for this collaboration between entrepreneurship and engineering is a finalist nomination in the 2016 Champion Canterbury Business Awards. There will be plenty of support for these guys too and one thing is certain, no matter how the night ends up, there will be cocktails shaken and stirred and there will be one seismic celebration. Congratulations to an innovative Christchurch engineering company and its very earthquake experienced engineers.