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Q&A With StockPal – Aerometrex (ASX:AMX)

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Q&A with StockPal - Mark Deuter, Managing Director of Aerometrex (ASX:AMX)

In this interview with Mark Deuter who is the Managing Director of Aerometrex (ASX:AMX), he explains what the business entails and comments on the recent signing of US 3D sale in the emerging Metaverse market.

0:00 – Introductions
0:10 – What is your business about?
0:59 – How did your company cope with the COVID-19 pandemic?
1:38 – How does your company make money?
2:33 – What is your firm’s competitive advantage?
3:27 – Could you elaborate on the recent signing of the 3D sale agreement in the US?
4:41 – How are you currently engaging with investors?

Visit Aerometrex’s website: https://aerometrex.com.au/

Email editor@stockpal.asia if you are or represent a listed-company and is keen to be in our interviews.

Want to be on the list next time this company raises capital? Open an account with Fresh Equities and start exploring capital raises – freshequities.com

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Carbonix – Dario Valenza

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The CEO Mindset - (From the top left) Carbonix Head of Engineering Aimran Akhtar, Founder & CTO Dario Valenza, CFO Stephen Pearce and CFO Philip van der Burg.

Dario Valenza is the Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Carbonix, a drone technology company which provides reliable, high quality, fully integrated RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) solutions to businesses and governments using next-generation materials and technologies to fly further and carry more weight in the safest and most user-friendly way.

What’s your journey in becoming a Chief Executive Officer?
I’m interested in technology and passionate about solving complex problems with innovative tools and materials. Throughout my career I sought to be involved in inspiring, fulfilling projects with a technological focus. Over time I found I could contribute to the organisation, project management, and funding of such enterprises, helping create environments where great ideas can thrive. 

Starting a business was a way to formalise and structure such an environment, attract talented team members and tackle technical innovation commercially. In the early years my role necessarily included tasks across every aspect of the business – from executive decision-making to taking out the rubbish. As the vision started becoming tangible and began to attract others, I was very mindful of giving every team member the ability to thrive within their domain and contribute their unique expertise.

There came a point where it made sense to bring in a dedicated CEO to allow me to focus on the tech vision. You could say I started out as CEO, then surrounded myself with complementary skills so I could contribute best in the technological realm, whilst maintaining governance oversight as a board member.

I find it fascinating and humbling that Carbonix has been able to attract an executive team, an engineering team, and an operations team that together represent a world-leading capability.

Tell us a bit about your business and how you are commercializing?
Carbonix offers fully integrated long-range aerial data capture solutions that can be deployed anywhere. We do this by combining highly optimised carbon fibre airframes, proprietary avionics, and supporting services such as training, maintenance, and flying missions. 

Our airframes are designed and built using technology spun out of the highly competitive world of America’s Cup yacht racing.  The modular nature of our systems means we can integrate specialised payloads that are suitable for a variety of missions across different industries.
We are commercialising by partnering with major infrastructure players and smaller commercial data capture providers. Our solution can give better quality data at lower prices than conventional techniques such as manned helicopters.

Carbonix’s Domani drone overlooking the Sydney harbour

What’s the most exciting thing about running your business?
Watching an idea go from a pencil sketch through prototyping and validation into the hands of a customer to add value to their operations.

There’s a constant learning curve involved in developing flying machines. It’s all about feedback from time in the air and observation.

When our team reaches a milestone, such as a new flight endurance record, the celebration is exhilarating.

How do you measure success?
In delivering the capability we promise to our customers when they couldn’t get it anywhere else. That means finding solutions to customer requirements, whether through a standard product or customised service.

What do you think is the most important quality of being a CEO of a company?
Providing assurance of a steady hand on the helm.  This means communicating the vision, showing commitment for the long term, and giving the team space to iterate, fail, develop. Leadership is also about setting expectations across the whole team with respect to performance, fairness, reward.

What is your favourite book?
Challenge by Warwick Collins.  Perhaps a bit obscure, but I read it for the first time as a teenager and it had a great influence on me. It is a Tom Clancy style Cold War thriller centred around a fictional Soviet challenge to the America’s Cup. The plot is driven by intrigues arising from a high-profile sporting competition being used to project technological prowess between superpowers. It is written with the inimitable optimism of late-1980s America and portrays characters that are fiercely committed to their sport and values. The story is inspiring and really captures the spirit of the America’s Cup as a ‘war without blood’.


What message do you want to send to our readership in Asia & Australia?
Drone applications are growing dramatically.  We’re starting to see specialisation as different companies find niches to develop. The technology is new and the regulatory framework (together with market and public acceptance) is rapidly adapting.
Like fully autonomous cars, scaled adoption of drones for urban mobility and package deliveries is still a decade away. But the commercial aerial data capture market for large-scale infrastructure surveying is available now for those who have the tools today. Carbonix is already proving this application in Australia and looking at overseas markets.

The Asian region presents a vast opportunity for both civilian and security applications, only accessible to drones with the features and proven capabilities of Carbonix products. The geographic proximity of Australia, together with our partnership with maintenance organisation Robotic Skies, also means service and support will be accessible to our Asian customers. We look forward to growing our presence and delivering our services there.

How can people connect with you?
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dario-valenza-a7380a23/
Carbonix’s Website: https://carbonix.com.au/

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YPB expands its anti-counterfeit footprint in SE Asia

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YPB expands its anti-counterfeit footprint in SE Asia

The Chinese demand for Australian manufactured is high and product authenticity is of utmost concern.

However, it is becoming more and more difficult to determine the legitimacy of some dairy products.

Last year, YPB Group Limited (ASX:YPB)  announced it had signed a 2+2 year sales contract with Nature One Dairy for the integration of its consumer engagement and serialised authentication solution, Connect, into its milk powder tins.

The idea was to ensure product authenticity and bring peace of mind to consumers.

That relationship has been going strong.

Nature One Dairy is one of Australia’s milk formula manufacturers accredited by the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China (CNCA) for export to China.

Today, YPB announced that follow-up business from Nature One Dairy in Australia has been extremely positive.

The relationship with NATURE ONE DAIRY® has been strengthened with YPB announcing just this week that the group had confirmed the expanded usage of YPB’s CONNECT codes in its regional expansion through South-East Asia.

NATURE ONE DAIRY® (NOD) was YPB’s first dairy sector customer and it is a producer of nutritionally enhanced milk powders, as well as being a contract manufactures for a number of Australian and international retailers.

The group has confirmed that it intends to increase the utilisation of YPB’s CONNECT beyond the initial applications in China and domestically to its new markets of Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia.

NOD has initially ordered an additional 10 million codes to be implemented over the initial Master Service Agreement (MSA) period.

The group’s South-East Asian expansion takes its product lines into more markets and additional product types such as senior and student nutrition targeted at the Vietnam market.

YPB’s chief executive John Houston highlighted the positive revenue impact from this development in saying, “NATURE ONE DAIRY® is a cornerstone client of YPB’s innovative CONNECT platform and we are delighted to extend our MSA to support its SE Asian expansion. We believe that not only will this add to revenue recognition, but also the awareness of this technology which is easily implemented on production lines to confirm product authenticity and encourage consumer engagement.”

Today’s news comes on the back of improved financial performance for the half year ended 30 June 2020.

YPB’s financial performance improved significantly in the first six months.

The net operating loss of $1.7 million was a 52% or $1.9 million improvement on the first half of 2019, and this could be attributed to timely cost actions that have set the company up with a lean effective cost base.

In terms of managing cash flow and gearing the group’s balance sheet to cope with the challenging conditions, the company was provided with $1.2 million of loans from an entity associated with chief executive John Houston, of which $600,000 was subsequently converted to equity following shareholder approval.

New equity totalling $800,000 was also raised post period end.

As at 30 June 2020, the company held $532,000 in cash and cash equivalents.

Two new contracts

YPB’s proprietary smartphone enabled technology suite allows consumers to confirm product authenticity and, for brands, that triggers consumers’ engagement.

Being able to identify product authenticity is a critical and more widespread issue than many are aware of, and it tends to be the high profile brands that are targeted with one of the notable examples being the sale of fake Penfolds top shelf wines in China in recent years.

On the score of China, this week’s release of the group’s result comes just days after the company announced two new important contracts in China that incorporate the group’s core technologies, a development that triggered a 25% share price increase.

However, COVID-19 side-tracked management’s execution of the company’s plans the first half.

As budgeted, revenue from Retail Anti-Theft (RAT) was zero during the period following the closure of that business late in the first half of 2019 and was the major factor in the 41% or $244,000 revenue fall compared with the previous corresponding period.

However, COVID-19 also crimped planned revenues, interrupting normal customer ordering and new business development.

On a brighter note, costs were down across the board, falling 52% as reported or down 30% adjusted for exchange rate (FX) movements.

Key factors contributing to the reduced costs included management’s major refocus and reshaping of its operations over the past two years, including further aggressive cost action and temporary staff salary reductions in the half as COVID-19 struck first in China and then in Australia and South-East Asia.

Directors absorbed their share of the pain, cutting fees to zero between April and December 2020 inclusive.

YPB steps up to assist in protecting suppliers and consumers during COVID

YPB has not just being proactive in terms of absorbing some of the COVID-related impact in terms of shareholder returns, but through its state-of-the-art technologies the company has looked to tackle the problem of counterfeit face masks.

Global counterfeiters are taking advantage of the worldwide panic, producing and selling fake face masks and Covid-19 testing kits.

Earlier in the year, Chinese authorities shut down more than 80 shops on e-commerce platform Taobao, run by Alibaba, for selling counterfeit masks, and police found 100,000 fake masks during a raid of an underground factory in Shanghai.

There has also been widespread reporting of the sale and distribution of fake face masks, usually counterfeit versions of the popular N95 variant made by 3M.

US Customs officials uncovered six plastic bags containing fake Covid-19 testing kits in a package sent from the UK on March 12.

However, with the virus showing no signs of slowing down, more fake sellers are likely to surface on e-commerce sites faster than they can be shut down, especially as people continue to stockpile masks or buy thousands at once to send to family and friends in parts of the world that have run out.

To help combat this, YPB is offering manufacturers of both masks and tests their technology free to help control the rapid spread of fake products.

Low sales costs translate into higher gross margins

Harking back to the group’s operational performance, cost of sales or direct product costs also fell significantly to $10,000 from $152,000, again reflecting the product costs of RAT in the prior period.

The mirror image of the low cost of sales was the very high gross margin in the June half of 2020.

The high intellectual property content of YPB’s revenues accounts for the 97% gross margin achieved during the period, up from 75% in the prior period where RAT gross margins of circa 30% dragged down the average.

Very high gross margins are likely to be sustained and are a key element in YPB’s plan to profitability, as profit leverage to revenue growth is extremely high with effectively every incremental revenue dollar falling straight to the profit line.

As revenue growth is achieved, the company’s profitability can improve rapidly as virtually all cost lines were down, many experiencing significant declines.

The biggest contributor to the first half cost fall was lower labour costs (aggregated as consulting fees, director’s fees and employment expenses) down $703,000 or 34%.

This was due in part to staff rationalisation, part permanent salary cuts, part temporary and voluntary salary cuts (April through June) and lower capital raising costs.

The group also received subsidies from the government of local jurisdictions relating to the various COVID-19 financial assistance packages in Australia and China, but the quantum was immaterial at $21,000.

The increase in Directors’ Fees related to active new business development work performed by a non-executive director, and this was paid in the form of equity (performance rights) not cash.

A notable increase in professional fees was driven by unavoidable experts’ reports necessitated by compliance requirements.

Momentum improving in China

The key operational development in the half was further new business momentum in YPB China, despite severe COVID-19 restrictions.

Although the potential is not yet fully proven, YPB China is unearthing significant new interest in YPB’s established T2 tracer-scanner technology driven equally by YPB’s excellent reputation in Tracer technologies and a heightened awareness of the need for product security and provenance.

The China operations were restructured last year with the cost base reduced significantly.

The sales function was more closely integrated with the skilled Australian sales team and new sales strategies and tactics were developed.

A key element of the strategy was to focus almost exclusively on channel partners – major suppliers of parts, packaging and other inputs to major branded consumer goods manufacturers both within China and internationally.

These intermediaries have privileged access to brands and offer leveraged – one to many – market access for YPB.

Key new channel partners were signed in the second half of 2019 and new parties came on board in the June half with management anticipating further new channel partners to emerge in the near term.

Some neglected prior YPB relationships have also been rekindled.

Structured account management, previously a key weakness of YPB, has been instituted and is expected to drive solid recurring revenues from these relationships.

Channel partners provide entry into high-volume industries

Via the channel partners, YPB now has an opportunity to gain access to very high volume industries, and the focus is now on driving volumes significantly higher.

This will take time, but the building blocks are being assembled for significant growth in YPB China.

Importantly, these opportunities relate primarily to the established T2 tracer-scanner technology for maintaining product security in supply chains.

The level of interest is indicating that there may well be a significant opportunity for this technology in China, as was identified at YPB’s inception, and that the conditions for market acceptance are now more favourable.

Importantly, the potentially bigger, consumer-facing opportunity of MotifMicro1 is well advanced in its path to commercial development and trials with PanPass, one of China’s largest security label printers.

COVID-19 has slowed both MM1 technical developments and high volume trials but major progress was made in the June half.

Release of a fully commercial MM1 product is anticipated late in December half, although it may slip into the first half of calendar year 2021.

Nevertheless, the preparation for commercial release and revenue generation from MM1 in China is well-progressed and it is expected to begin generating revenues quickly upon its release.

It is also worth noting that a new sales resource was added in Thailand towards the end of the June half, perhaps paving the way for further opportunities in South-East Asia.

Early progress in new business development has been encouraging and may bear fruit in the coming months.

During the June half, an innovative MM1 high security shrink wrap was developed with OPP Gravure Printing Co. Ltd in Thailand.

Further development activities have been severely hampered by COVID-19 in Thailand, but mutual interest remains in developing the relationship further.

Major advances with Connect and MotifMicro1

YPB has also made significant progress on the technical front particularly with its Connect and MotifMicro1 products.

In the June half, the new generation Connect 2.0 consumer engagement platform was released.

It is a newly architected, user friendly, lower cost of operation product that went live during the period.

The migration of existing customers from Connect 1.0 to 2.0 is ongoing and this is expected to result in lower hosting and other operating costs for YPB once the migration is completed by the end of 2020.

Major progress was also made on MotifMicro1 smartphone readability, culminating in the announcement on July 27 that the critical technical milestone of Android smartphone readability of the proprietary MotifMicro1 particle had been achieved.

Importantly, this technical step was also a key commercial milestone, with the addition of Android functionality to the existing iOS capability of MotifMicro, a major technical hurdle on MotifMicro’s commercial development path.

The Android capability is included in the second generation MotifMicro1 APP which was also released at the end of July.

Smartphone readability development is highly dependent on Artificial Intelligence skills and capacity, and our Bangkok team has advanced capabilities in this area.

COVID hangover remains, but December quarter growth is a prospect

COVID-19 and its aftermath continue to make estimating the timing of new sales revenues and cash receipts unusually difficult.

Nevertheless, present indications are that December half revenues should stabilise at June half levels, and possibly grow, but with a heavy weighting towards the December quarter.

The range of possible outcomes is wide and dependent on ‘normality’ resuming for YPB’s customers and their ordering patterns, as well as the timing of new business wins that in some instances are still being hampered by COVID-19 restrictions.

Costs are likely to rise somewhat in the December half as the temporary COVID-19 salary reductions ended on June 30, 2020.

However, other cost items are likely to remain relatively flat and will remain tightly managed.

Changed work practices across the business community will permanently reduce a range of costs and improve staff productivity.

Discussing the result and the group’s outlook for the remainder of the year and into 2021, Houston said, “H1 2020 demonstrates that YPB is heading toward becoming a successful, self-funding business.

‘’Our product suite is now diversified and commercially robust, and we have developed a cost effective yet highly skilled tech team in Bangkok.

‘’Our sales strategies and staff are at a new level of professionalism, and our cost management is very tight with the new norms of remote work and meeting permanently reducing a range of costs.

‘’YPB China’s market development progress with our established T2 tracer-scanner is very encouraging and it is possible that T2 in China alone could underwrite the company’s profitability should we be able to build further momentum in that business over time.

‘’As MotifMicro1 approaches commercial release, our market opportunity balloons many fold as it will be a globally unique, high-security, product authentication technology for the much larger consumer market.

‘’Market entry is well planned with early adoption partners in both China and Thailand established.

‘’Further, MotifMicro’s possible applications are only limited by imagination, and licensing MotifMicro1 for specific industries and geographies remains an important plank of the plan to realise its true value (although not in active development presently).

‘’Finally, I’m proud of and grateful for the dedication and sacrifices of our staff during COVID-19, and the whole team is intent on making YPB the success we know it can be.”

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‘Buy Now Pay Later’ and Plant Based Meats: Roots Targets Two Mega Growth Markets

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‘Buy Now Pay Later’ and Plant Based Meats: Roots Targets Two Mega Growth Markets

Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies Limited (ASX:ROO) has a strong pipeline of opportunities in the agricultural and cannabis sectors, and with a number of initiatives in play regarding developing technologies and entry into new markets there are several share price catalysts on the horizon.

This week it made inroads into two growing markets: plant-based meat and ‘buy now pay later’ (BNPL).

Roots’ entry into the plant-based meat market is unsurprising.

The plant-based meat market was estimated to be worth US$12.1 billion in 2019. It is expected to reach a value of US$27.9 billion by 2025.

Demand for plant-based meat alternatives is being driven by consumers seeking healthier dietary options and R&D efforts from health experts and food manufacturers.

Popularity for the products has also increased following the establishment of NASDAQ-listed Beyond Meat Inc. (market capitalisation of approximately US$7.8 billion), as well as an investment in alternative meat manufacturers by Cargill (America’s largest private company in the sector).

Following Roots’ recent placement to raise $2.5 million, the company is well funded to capitalise on a number of opportunities that it is aggressively pursuing through its new plant-based meats department.

The new department will be helmed by world leading researcher Professor Zohar Kerem, who has a long and distinguished career in food chemistry.

Roots is seeking to capitalise on recent Proof of Concept (POC) study results that show the positive effects Root Zone Temperature Optimisation (RZTO) technology on the yield of protein-based plants, an outcome that has prompted management to pursue opportunities presented in the lucrative plant based meat market.

Root Zone Temperature Optimization (RZTO) optimises plant physiology for increased growth, productivity and quality by stabilising the plant’s root zone temperature.

Commenting on these developments, chairman and chief executive Boaz Wachtel said, “We are extremely excited to have established a plant-based meat department to explore potentially lucrative opportunities in a rapidly growing sector.

“The company is also pleased to welcome Professor Kerem to lead the division, as he will be instrumental in screening opportunities to provide validation of the company’s technology in enhancing protein in plants.

“We have already achieved excellent POC (proof of concept) results using the key ingredients for meat alternative products and we will now commence work to aggressively pursue collaboration agreements and partnerships with manufacturers in the sector.

“As food security continues to becoming an increasing concern for developing and established nations, our broader business performance continues to perform well.”

BNPL is also an attractive market

While it works hard to establish itself in the plant based meat market, ROO is innovating elsewhere.

The company has executed a strategic agreement with major retail and marketing company Amir Marketing and Investing in Agriculture Ltd, (Amir) to promote and sell ROO’s proprietary Root Zone Temperature Optimisation (RZTO) technology in Israel.

The agreement also includes a ‘Buy Now – Pay Later’ component, which will lower the barriers of entry for farmers and expedite uptake.

Amir sells a wide range of agricultural products and solutions to private farmers and agricultural businesses in Israel. The group has 25 retail stores and trade centres across all major agricultural areas in the country and service approximately 7,500 customers per annum.

Under the agreement, Amir will promote the ROO’s RZTO technology in its 25 stores and offer a ‘Buy Now – Pay Later’ plan, which will allow consumers to spread payments for the technology over 12 to 24 months.

Amir will be responsible for cash collections and will make payments to ROO up to 60 days from the signing of a purchase order.

The offer is already gaining traction with a first sale valued at A$14,300 for an RZTO system sold to a Peonies grower in North Israel recently installed.

This development marks one of the first ‘Buy Now – Pay Later’ plans introduced into the agriculture sector and highlights the company’s innovative approach towards business growth.

Roots executive chairman and chief executive, Boaz Wachtel said, “This agreement is a significant milestone for Roots and the agricultural sector more broadly, as it marks one of the first ‘Buy Now – Pay Later’ payment plans for consumers in the space.

“The agreement with Amir provides the company with another sales channel into the Israeli market, as well as visibility for our solutions in over 25 retail stores throughout the country at little expense.

“The payment agreement we have struck with Amir will make our technology much more accessible to farmers and other growers throughout Israel as the payment terms align well with farmers’ receivable terms.

“As the world continues to transitions to more ‘Buy Now – Pay Later’ plans for goods and services we will continue to pursue similar agreements with our distribution partners.

‘’We anticipate that this will assist in driving demand for our products in international markets.

Roots is well positioned with a strong supply chain and it has number of initiatives underway to drive sales domestically and in a number of international markets where RZTO is being well-received and accepted.

If Roots can achieve success in Israel using ‘Buy Now – Pay Later’ terms, the readily transferable model suggests the company can tailor this type of plan to other countries.

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