Growing $600,000 worth of vanilla from a smartphone

Inventor David Soo had no idea his life would change dramatically after having dinner with an old friend in Far North Queensland.

The Sydney-based engineer's dining partner was a local chef, who had a narrow escape from harm in Papua New Guinea, where he was robbed by bow-and-arrow-wielding bandits.

"He had an export license for vanilla in PNG," Mr Soo said.

"On his last trip, he got ambushed after he'd paid the money and was taking the vanilla beans back down to the city.

"He said he didn't want to do it anymore because it's too dangerous and I thought, 'Well why can't we do it here in Australia?'."

Key points:
  • Vanilla is a lucrative crop but challenging and labour-intensive to grow
  • An inventor hopes to produce a tonne of vanilla using a custom-designed 'dome' greenhouse
  • Specific growing conditions inside the dome can be adjusted by mobile device
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