Award winning NZ sheep drencher an innovation the whole family can enjoy

Kate Williamson's picture

Rod Walker, Director and Research and Development Manager at Simcro speaks to Open Forum's Kate Williamson about OPTILINE; winner of a 2010 Australian International Design Award  (medical and scientific category). 

Simcro was given the opportunity in 2005 to tender for the design of a new sheep drench gun to Novartis Animal Health in Switzerland and was successfully awarded the contract. As a company based in Hamilton, New Zealand, how did this come about and what was involved?
Novartis Animal Health approached us with a revolutionary new product for treating intestinal worm in sheep and thought that current drenching methods could be improved. Not much had changed in traditional sheep drenches. In their research they could see a lot of difficulty in user experience and thought it wasn’t acceptable.
Simcro came up with seven proposals and on two occasions presented them at the Swiss head office. On the second presentation, they told us we had the job. 

Traditional drenching systems are held like a pistol in your hand. The OPTILINE actually modified the angles making the application of the drench so much easier. 
Yes that’s right, operation is more comfortable because the need to bend the wrist has been significantly reduced. The operator’s hand is also in line with the nozzle making insertion more natural.
This would be a great relief for many farmers. What type of feedback are you receiving?
Traditional farming has changed quite a bit. Many jobs that men would do, now involves all of the family, including women and kids. I see a lot of women using the OPTILINE which works really well with their smaller hands. They are finding it so much easier to use. 
Managers of farms are also more confident when working with inexperienced workers.  With the traditional sheep drenching gun, there was the risk of harming the animal. The front of the gun could easily impact on the side of the throat or the top of the mouth. With OPTILINE these parts were modified so the risk of harm was eliminated.
Where has the product been launched?
It has already been launched in New Zealand, UK and France and is soon to be launched in Australia.
Looking back, what was the most rewarding aspect of developing this design?
It was great to work with Novartis who were able to invest in market research and would drive the sales process. 
We had known for some time that traditional designs could be improved upon, and with Novartis’s backing we were able to put our expertise and abilities toward developing something radically different. We were also pleased that OPTILINE is manufactured locally in New Zealand.   


Rod Walker is Director and Research and Development Manager at Simcro, a design company based in Hamilton, New Zealand.