Ahoy! Cairns couple develop a new kind of anchor to be gentle on the environment
Margaret Powell pulled hard on the rope but the anchor did not budge — stuck hard in the endangered Queensland reef below.
“When I turned to tell Peter the anchor was stuck, a wave hit the front of the boat broke the bow sprit and almost catapulted me into the water,” Margaret says.
Shocked by the experience Cairns residents Margaret, 54 and her husband Peter Powell, 58, quickly discovered their story was very common throughout fishing and boating circles.
“When we went home and started talking to people about the issue we realised there were lots of people who’d had the same experience,” she says.
So Margaret and Peter set about inventing a safer way to release an anchor for both people and planet.
Launched in 2012, Catch n’ Release is an anchor retrieval device which reduces damage to people, boats and the environment by changing how the anchor is pulled up.
“We realised anchors are an environmental concern as well as a safety concern,” says Margaret.
“Every time anchors are retrieved they pull through whatever you’re anchored to causing damage. Whether you accidentally get onto a reef, seagrass beds, mud or rocks it is all some sort of environment being disturbed for the creatures down there.”
Catch’n’Release is the first device to change the retrieval point of the anchor, ensuring that it dislodges by coming out the way it went in. The release mechanism changes the direction of pull from the top of the anchor and engages it to the bottom of the anchor.
To kick start Catch n’ Release Margaret and Peter were supported by startup and innovation hub theSpace. Based in Cairns, theSpace supports entrepreneurs in Far North Queensland by providing a supportive and collaborative ecosystem and working environment.
“They (theSpace) were certainly instrumental in helping us doing what we’re doing and getting the show on the road,” says Margaret.
“We are so far away from major cities there is a need for a lot of innovation in the bush because you have to make do with what you have.”
Since 2012, Catch n’ Release has grown exponentially in the Australian market which Margaret attributes to a $91,000 grant they received as part of the$10 million Advance Queensland Ignite Ideas Fund.
Margaret says the funding enabled them to take their product across Australia and allowed essential marketing demographic research for advertising targets.
“It’s great to have a great product but we need to be able to market it to the right people. I don’t think we could’ve kept going without it,” she says.
Margaret is excited to watch Queensland continue to grow as the destination for innovators with big ideas.
“The innovation climate is so much more accepting these days. There’s so much more out there in Queensland to help people with an idea,” she says.
Margaret is quick to let other innovators know that even with funding and supportive mentors, the pathway to success is not always smooth sailing.
“It’s like every other overnight success; it actually takes forever. We’ve shelved the idea many times, then somebody would ask us about it and we would say to each other ‘maybe we should do something with that’ and we would pull it out again,” she says.
“It has been a really difficult road but we persevered because we both have the desire to help preserve the environment as well as saving people’s lives.”
Margaret and Peter have now turned their attention to the future and are hoping to bring the production of their anchor back to Australian shores.
“We are hoping to have it [Catch n’ Release] produced in Queensland in the future and we are in the process of talking with some manufacturers. That’ll keep it not only in the country but also in the state so that would be fantastic.”