A LIGHTBULB moment and some “unwavering” support from Fremantle council has paid dividends for a local start-up which has secured its first major contract to supply “smart” doggie bag dispensers to the City of Swan.
Little Rippers founder Peter Konstek says he was chatting to a mate who’s a ranger in Mosman Park about the difficulties they were having getting dog bags during Covid. It got so dire they had to raid the dispensers in quiet parks to fill up the busy ones.
But the lightbulb came when his mate revealed that the only way the council could keep track of what was needed was for the rangers to drive around once a week checking them out.
“I was thinking ‘this is a bit of crappy job’, so I thought I’d just go knock on the door at Freo and see if I could get some answers out of them,” Mr Konstek says.
Turns out Freo’s rangers were also driving out each week to check their 100 poo bag dispensers and he started to do the math; all that time behind the wheel wasn’t very efficient (or good for the environment), while dispensers which had a few bags left would be emptied anyway, leaving a bit of a plastic waste problem.
“I said to him ‘look, I think I’ve got an idea’.”
It was to put a sensor in the dispenser letting the rangers know when the bags had run out.
He took the idea to a mate who’s an electronics engineer and they completely rethought the dispenser so it could be manufactured cheaply.
“We started playing around with different types of sensors and devices and use our 3-D printers to create the prototype dispensers… and about six months later we managed to get something to work.”
Freo’s rangers agreed to trial the new bags at South Beach and Booyeembara Park, and although there were a few hiccups the council hung in there as Mr Konstek refined his designs until the system proved to work.
He says now the rangers only have to check their emails over a morning coffee, print out a list of the empty dispensers and travel directly to where they’re needed.
“That way you aren’t having any wastage and customers aren’t complaining.
“We did trials for about six months, and once we got to the point where the prototype was working quite reliably, we then opened up trials with Melville, Stirling and Vincent.”
By July, Little Rippers knew they had the demand and commissioned a local company to produce the molding dies they’d need to go into mass production.
They’ve now secured the three-year contract with Swan, but are also running field trials in Bunbury, Karratha, Murray, Denmark and Shark Bay councils.
Locals apparently like the new design; as the Chook lined Mr Konstek up for a photo with a dispenser in Booyeembara Park, one of the regular dog walkers decided it was “very cute”.
by STEVE GRANT