Vertical Farming at Retirement Villages are a Hit

Vertical Farming at Retirement Villages are a Hit

When it comes to adopting new ideas for the good life in our later years. It’s always a good idea to see what other countries are doing. So in light of that, this is a very interesting idea. Vertical Field is a global ag-tech company that makes vertical farming systems. They have collaborated with an American aged-care company called Calson Management. So that they could supply on-site vertical farming units. For the senior residents get the freshest produce available for a better life.

The project started out as an experiment. Vertical Field provided a demo unit to the Glen Cove senior living lodge in Vallejo, California. The pilot programme was successful. As a result, it was decided that vertical farms will be installed in the seven other aged-care centres that the Carlson Group owned.

The Vertical Field

Vertical Field has developed and commercialised unique soil-based, vertical farms that operate in 20 and 40-foot containers. They produce freshly harvested and pesticide-free produce. The indoor farms are capable of growing a variety of fresh greens and other crops all year round. Moreover, they cut food miles, because the fresh food does not need to be transported to the end consumers. As a result, the farms use 90% less water and 30 times less land than conventional farming methods. Each portable unit is made from recycled shipping containers.

vertical field produce
A vertical field culinary creation…capress salad topped with freshly harvested basil.

Optimum growing conditions are created using advanced sensors and monitors, climate control technology, and state-of-the-art lighting. As a result, crops grow quickly regardless of the weather. The Company already provides vertical farming units for supermarkets, restaurants, and other businesses across the world.

vertical field

“We are very excited to launch our first partnership with an assisted living centre. It will provide senior citizens with freshly harvested. High-quality produce is grown right outside their residence,” says Guy Elitzur, Vertical Field’s CEO. “This partnership supports our values of ensuring that nutritious produce reaches the homes of all people. No matter where they live. We look forward to continuing to expand to many other assisted living centres. Granted to make delicious and quality food accessible to senior citizens throughout the world.”

Jason Reyes of Calson Management said that the health and wellbeing of seniors is a priority. “By  bringing the farm all the way to our residents, seniors can see where the food grows and enjoy high-quality produce.”

I think we can all agree that this is an idea worth stealing. ■



Silver Magazine spoke to some people who use dating sites after 50. Love? Lust? Hot? Cold? Yes? No? Let’s find out.


MARIA (54)

I had been married a very long time – 30 years – and the marriage was always very good. But the sex was always disappointing for me. It was good for him but not for me, and I couldn’t seem to get around that. When I turned 52, my sex drive was very, very high and he was very, very low. He was lucky to want sex once every two weeks.

dating over 50

We both knew our sex life needed something new, so we decided to make our relationship an open one. When you’ve been together for 30 years, having sex with each other is less important than it was when you were young. Our kids were raised and out of home, so it was time to have some fun.\

My husband preferred to take just one lover, and he sees her maybe once every two weeks. I don’t think his sex drive could take much more than that. But I decided to experiment.

So being 54, I thought that I would be less desirable. I also thought that men wouldn’t be open to the idea that we weren’t working towards a relationship, because I never wanted to leave my husband. I just wanted to have a more interesting sex life. And so I said that on my profile.

dating after 50

I was very clear that I wasn’t about to take on one-night stands and do that 300 times. I wanted to know the person and make sure they weren’t going to murder me and put me in a freezer. But also, while at this age we can’t get pregnant, we do have to be careful with STIs. I was looking for some regular lovers who were open to being very safe with sex. And I’ve had some really good success with that.

My biggest surprise was to see very young guys in my inbox wanting to have an affair, and it has been amazing. Only one of them I’ve taken up with. It is honestly because I couldn’t resist. He is 26 and he is absolutely stunningly gorgeous. And the sex with him has been wild. It makes me think that good lover are born and not taught. He hasn’t had a lot of partners, but he has sex as he has.

We see each other about once a fortnight and I am delighted to see him every time. I am on borrowed time though, he will find his life partner soon and then his focus will be her. So I enjoy it while it lasts. Porn has done a lot of good things for older women, thanks to the MILF category. Young men absolutely have fantasies about us and they desire us.

Each dating app offers a different type of dating. There are lots and lots of interesting people out there. And lots of people want to get to know you and have sex with you and take you on as a lover. They want to listen to you, and they want you to listen to them. And it’s been really, really refreshingly a good experience. I now currently have four lovers who I see maybe once a week each and they offer me different things.

One of my lovers is my age, he’s 54 and he owns a boat and he moors it at the Southport Yacht Club, and I go and stay on his boat one night a week. We have wine and we have dinner and it’s amazing. He has seen the world, and he has a lot of interesting things to say, and he’s got kids like I’ve got kids and they have their own lives now and that’s lovely. But that is his life – I don’t want to live on a boat! But sex on a boat is great!

My next lover, I like a lot. He’s divorced and lives on his own. He’s such a nice person, and you know what? I’d never married him in a million years. This guy is not exciting enough for me, but he is amazing in bed. So that’s been a diverting experience. And,  he lives up the road and I can visit him whenever. I’m always welcome. I think it will work with him until he gets to the stage where he wants a second wife. And the second wife is not going to be me.

My other lover is a man that I didn’t meet through dating online. I met him at my gym. He is ten years younger than me. I don’t even know how to describe him. He’s really tall and broad, and he is properly wild. He is covered in tattoos and has a  wild hairstyle and piercings. He’s into domination and other things that I have never experienced in my life except when I was reading 50 Shades! But when he strides into the room, picks me up and throws me over the kitchen counter, I lose my mind. You are literally never too old to try new things and this guy has put me through a loop. I  could never have a relationship with him. He’s broke and irresponsible. But as a lover? Holy hell.

If you want just a casual thing, and you’re just looking to have a more exciting life, absolutely try internet dating. But do it sensibly. Always meet these people first in a cafe or a bar or whatever. If they want to meet you just for sex and they want you to come to their house at the first meeting, I think you’re going to have a bad time. This is because it is probably someone who just doesn’t care about anything but the sex. But if they’re willing to take the time to get to know you and have a coffee first or have some dinner somewhere or go for a walk on the beach first, they’re better guys. And then also always tell someone where you are. Always practice safe sex.

If, like me, you are an older woman who wants to explore her sexuality, then absolutely do it. I think this is an exciting time in our lives. We can’t get pregnant. We’ve got no responsibilities. Our kids are grown up and moved away. In terms of material things in life, we’ve got everything we need by 50. As we age we are more about the experiences, rather than things. So it’s a great time to grab your sex life with both hands and go for it.


BILL (72) MET SANDY (68) on an online dating site.

I’ve been divorced for well over 23 years. I never got married again, but I’ve had relationships that never worked out for one reason for another. It took me a long time to get the courage up to put myself on a dating website. But eventually, I did, and I wanted to find a partner. Sandy got on the website, would you believe, find a partner for a New Year’s Eve party! She wasn’t looking for anything long term. She was just looking for a party partner because she hadn’t been to a New Year’s Eve party for years! She had been on her own for nine years, she decided to make the move. I was the first person she contacted.

I met Sandy about two weeks after I went online. When we connected, we started communicating on the dating site. After some correspondence, I asked, “Would it be okay if I sent you my email address?” Which I did.

We corresponded for about three weeks. The chats were nice, I could tell she was a lovely, lovely lady. And it all kind of went from there until Sandy said, “I think we should meet.”

We chose to meet at a place she was comfortable  – her local surf club. After  communicating with one another, we had a friendship happening by the time I had met her. After we met, I took her to Rydges at the airport. It is a really, really, really nice restaurant.

It was straightforward from there. We started dating and seeing one another and the friendship grew and we’re inseparable now. We celebrate the first of every month – it was the 1st of January when I first met her and took her out. And so as of the 1st of June, it has been six months.

I would definitely recommend meeting online. But be cautious about who you are corresponding with. Connect on the dating site but then continue to communicate privately off the site.

There are scammers out there. I started to communicate with a person calling herself Jewel. She was in Malaysia buying jewellery. She sent me very, very flowery messages. Next thing you know, she was asking me for money. Of course, I told her, “I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” And I never heard from her again. If someone asks for money, run for your life.

Sandy and I are going to move in together at the end of the month. Sandy is originally from South Australia and her two sons are living over here on the Gold Coast. So it makes sense that she moves in with me. She has sold her place in South Australia and things have worked out great.

She had her reservations in the beginning obviously, how things were going to happen. She kind of felt that we have met in a previous life because we just get on with one another so well. Now, we are totally inseparable.

In fact, where I get a lot of ribbing from my mates…Can’t you leave her alone? You’re always holding her hand, or you’re always doing something with her!

At the current moment, she is busily putting a lot of stuff on eBay because I’ve got an apartment here and it is fully furnished.

When I met Sandy, I was 71, I turned 72 in March. I said, “It’s taken me 71 years to find you.” And she says, “We’re meant to be and we were meant to meet later.”

I have two sons who are 44 and 42. My eldest is on the Gold Coast, and my other one is in Sydney. And Sandy has two sons as well around the same age group. We have all met each other and everyone is happy for us. I’m still pinching myself.



My marriage was winding down and we were coming to what I thought was a natural end of the relationship. And so, I thought I’d see if dating was still possible over 50. I tried a few different online apps. Some of them were good and some of them weren’t so good.

I wanted something that would lead to a  relationship, something to have a future. It was easy to arrange dates. The nice women on there will take some time to chat and get to know you a  bit. Once you’ve established some sort of rapport, they are always willing to meet you for a  coffee or something simple to start. This is just to see if you’ve there’s some sort of in‑person compatibility.

I didn’t have any sort of real chemistry with some of my dates. But I have kept them as good friends. And these are people that I still like to meet up with and have a coffee with. I see how they’re getting on and see how their dating experiences are going versus mine. I’m sure that one or two women that I dated probably thought that it would be nice to move things along. But I didn’t reciprocate those feelings.

Then I met Jackie. I think we just got on best. There was chemistry, there was the physical attraction. But also we were able to chat more freely and I think we had a better understanding of what we both wanted. And so, it just felt like natural.

Internet dating is definitely a good thing. Back in the day, you had to meet somebody in a bar or at a nightclub. You didn’t even know if they were single or not. You just had to sort of asking them. There was a lot of hit and miss and you could be rejected an awful lot. The girl might be attracted to you but if she was with somebody and you didn’t know that before you approached her, that was awkward.

Whereas online you know what you’re looking for and you know what they’re looking for. So, there’s a lot of the hit and miss stuff that is gone immediately from the equation. But also, back in the day, you were meeting somebody in a location, you were limited to the sorts of people around you in the places you were going to. Whereas online, you could meet somebody that you might never have met before.

I hope my relationship with Jackie will end up in marriage and world travel. There’s no rush though. Things have to go the way they go.

I would highly recommend online dating. It is an advancement on what in-person dating used to be.


JANET (62)

I was single for five years when I met Albert. I was really looking for somebody that enjoyed the same things that I did. I was always looking for that drop[1]dead gorgeous guy, but then I changed things around a bit and started looking for a different kind of guy. I wanted a good personality. And someone who was interested in the same things I was – travel and fishing and all sorts of different things that I find me involved with.

I have finally realised that it is not all about looks. Companionship needs to be there as well as being attracted to him. I like having somebody to do things with.

I went onto an online dating site, and I met Albert. We chatted for a couple of days. He was away at the time so when he returned we met for coffee at a local restaurant. He was very nice and very considerate. And then we chatted some more and then I found myself on a second date with him. Fish and chips at Charis by the Broadwater… my favourite!

We just seemed to get on really well. He makes me laugh. Now we see each other a few times a  week and spend a couple of nights at each other’s houses. I quite like that we still live in our own houses. After being single for so long, you have that independence. Even though we are in a  relationship, I still like to have my own space, and he does too.

We don’t have any plans of moving in together in the near future. We’re quite happy the way things are going. While I don’t have any kids at home, his grown-up kids have just moved back in with him. And I don’t want to live in that tornado!

I would absolutely recommend dating online. If nothing else, it is a good giggle. ■

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Pets Help Improve Seniors’ Health

Pets Help Improve Seniors’ Health

PETS CAN HELP ELDERLY OWNERS get active, shake off stress, and feel less pain, according to a recent poll.

Only pet owners can truly understand the joy a pet can bring to their lives. Yet according to this poll, pets do more than provide happiness to humans – they bring mental and physical health benefits, too. This is according to the results of the National Poll on Healthy Aging by the University of Michigan. The poll found that 55% of older adults own a pet, with more than three-quarters of respondents saying that having pets reduces their stress and gives them a sense of purpose.

Correlation Between Dogs and Activeness

Two-thirds of pet owners, including 78% of dog owners, also shared that their pet keeps them physically active. Meanwhile, owning pets seemed to even be more beneficial for respondents who said their health was fair or poor, with over 70% saying their pet helps them cope with physical or emotional symptoms. An incredible 46% said that their pets helped them take their mind off the pain.

Mary Janevic, who helped design the poll, said, “Relationships with pets tend to be less complicated than those with humans, and pets are often a source of great enjoyment. They also provide older adults with a sense of being needed and loved.”

Professor Cathleen Connell has studied the role of companion animals in older adults’ lives. “We have long known that pets are a common and naturally occurring source of support.” But aside from taking care of pets, Connell adds that maintaining social connections and activities with friends and family helps improve older people’s quality of life. “Helping older adults find low-cost ways to support pet ownership while not sacrificing other important relationships and priorities is an investment in overall mental and physical health.”

And that is exactly what the AWLQ does! If you are thinking about adopting, then this will surely set your mind at ease. ■

Click here to know more about the betterment of elderly life.

CT Scans – Catching Cancer Before You Even Have Symptoms

CT Scans – Catching Cancer Before You Even Have Symptoms

CT scan needed? At Mermaid Beach, there is a clinic which is the only private practice in Australia with new Spectral CT Scanner. Here’s what that means for you.

There is now a technology so innovative and disruptive, that it promises to turn medicine on its head. It is called Spectral CT and it is a revolution in the diagnosis game. This is the sharp edge of medicine.

The long name of the kit is the Philips IQon Elite Spectral CT. Or, Spectral CT for short. Mermaid Beach Radiology is the only private radiology clinic in all of Australia to have one. It can see inside you like no other machine on the market while having an ultra-low radiation dose. It can diagnose cancer you don’t even know you have, even before you feel sick.

Patient getting in Spectral CT
A patient getting a CT scan

Just when you think things couldn’t get better for patient care – in the room next door is the Philips Ingenia Elition 3.0T X wide bore research[1]grade MRI. There are only 3 of these top-of-the[1]line MRI machines in private practice in Australia (the other two are in Western Australia).

Entrepreneurial Minds at Work

Dr. Zane Sherif is the brilliant mind behind the futuristic clinic. He’s a radiologist with a passion for technology and what it can do in the medical field. Alongside his wife, Dr. Kirralee Sherif, who herself has a Ph.D. in Engineering, Zane has opened Mermaid Beach Radiology. They are hoping that people of the Gold Coast (and much farther afield) will understand just what a gift it is to have access to these cutting-edge machines. He said, “Our bar for machine selection was, ‘what would we want to have ourselves, our kids, our loved ones scanned on?’”

Spectral CT in its full glory
A glimpse of the CT scan machine

Zane tells us about a recent case of his. “A  patient came into use with a forearm issue. He’d been living with forearm pain for years and had seen multiple specialists. He was in relentless pain that no one was able to get on top of. He has been prescribed antipsychotics and antidepressants and all sorts of things. Nothing worked. He had accepted that he may have to amputate his arm to gain relief. Finally, he found us.

“Ben Kennedy, the MRI Clinical and Research Director, did his magic and finally, the patient had a diagnosis. There was a problem with his radial nerve. The radial nerve in our arm goes through a little tunnel, just off the bone. For him, that tunnel was too tight and it was inflaming the nerve. But you could not see it on any other scan until now.

“Ben was able to get an entirely new view of the nerve. He could trace its path through that tunnel. He could see that the nerve was thicker and brighter, but only in the tunnel. So we knew that it was getting stenosed. Now that we knew the problem, we could treat it. Within hours, we injected the area with some Cortisone, and for the first time in years, the patient had no pain. The Cortisone shrinks down the swelling around the nerve and could last for years, if not forever. This kind of case isn’t unusual, it happens here on a daily basis.”

Rise of Spectral CT Scanners in Queensland

In South East Queensland, there are six Spectral scanners in public hospitals. The hospitals have a much bigger budget to purchase the near two-million-dollar machines. They always have to have the best diagnostic tools. But there’s a waiting list and you may only get to use it after you have run the gauntlet of lower-end machines. And usually, you need to be a hospital inpatient. By then, precious time has passed.

Then there’s the machine in Mermaid Beach Radiology, which is a private clinic. In all of the other radiology clinics in Australia, there are a grand total of zero Spectral CT scanners.

As a private business, Zane and Kirralee had to answer the business case for spending so much money on one machine. Says Zane, “This piece of machinery is 10 times the cost of some CT scanners. An entry-level CT scanner costs about $200,000. The Spectral CT costs nearly two million dollars. But this machine takes a  massive leap when it comes to diagnostic power. It is like comparing the phone that you used 15 years ago to the one you’re using now. We  took a gamble because the medical community needs to do better for patients.”

Zane said that he wanted to move to Spectral CT technology when he worked for other radiology companies. “I was literally laughed out of the building. And yet… this machine is an absolute diagnostic monster. I wanted my patients to have access to this. So I said, right, I’ll buy it myself.”

And Mermaid Beach Radiology was born. Zane says the Spectral CT images give the radiologists diagnostic confidence in what we are seeing. “A lot of the time you might see something on a lower-end machine, and you really have no idea what it is. However, with the Spectral CT, we have more diagnostic confidence. The images are just far superior to what’s out there. I’m not saying we can answer every question, but we have the best tools known to science to help answer the more complex medical dilemmas.

Importance of High-Quality Scanners

“It does not matter how good a radiologist is if their tools are poor. If you’re looking through foggy glasses, all you’re going to see is fog. They could be an Einstein-level of intellect, but it is irrelevant. They can only report what they see, and if they can’t see it, they can’t diagnose it. But every single day, we are seeing pathology in patient’s Spectral CT scans that have not been seen using an older technology.

“There isn’t a day I’m not making a phone call to a referring doctor on a new case of unknown cancer or some other obscure diagnosis. I’ve never made so many phone calls in my career. We have a lot of patients come in here who know there is something wrong and haven’t yet been able to get a diagnosis. There was one gentleman who had five scans in the last six months with no answer. It was not until he got on the Spectral CT that we could see that he had cancer of his chest wall.”

Kirralee says, “There are times Zane shows me scans done on non-Spectral scanners, and you just cannot see cancer, even when you know where to look, we can’t see it. Then he’s like, ‘Have a look at this.’ And the cancer is so bright and unmissable.”

Zane says it is so important to be diagnosed early. “With modern medicine, our best chance at altering the course of a disease is in the early stages. Once it is chronic, forget it. The horse has bolted. You can’t unscramble an egg. Spectral CT is the future of radiology. In five years, everyone will have a Spectral scanner. But at the moment, it’s just Mermaid Beach Radiology who are offering it. We wanted to be an early adopter because this machine is your best shot.”

Holistic Medicine

Kirralee Sherif, the wife of Zane, is passionate about the experience the patient has at Mermaid Beach Radiology. As a working mother of four young children, she has the usual juggle of family and working life. But being busy doesn’t diminish her desire for the patient to feel cared for when they need it. She is intensely convinced that the patient journey is paramount and has made it her life’s work. “I had imaging done myself between my second third child. I had some really awful news, and I was sitting in a clinic in Sydney bawling my eyes out in the hallway, as everyone’s going past getting their images done. I was so alone and I just didn’t want anyone to ever feel the way I did that day. We designed this clinic so that the patient has a much better journey than that.”

inside Mermaid research
The living wall, which sits behind the reception desk designed by local artist Lisa De Boer

The clinic has a dedicated room in case someone needs to hear bad news and two full-time nurses. The patient comfort room has a heated blanket, a TV, and if someone needs time with Zane to discuss a diagnosis or if they just need time with the nurse, they can have this room. It’s also a recovery room, and an observation room too.”

The Ambiance of Mermaid Radiology

When you walk into the clinic, it has an art gallery vibe. A living wall, looking like a tropical rainforest, in reception is beguiling, and unexpected. It is properly beautiful. Green life grows in a lot of places in the clinic. Says Kirralee, “All the plants in reception and throughout the building are real. There’s a lot to be said about the effects of greenery on health. We want our patients to feel as calm and as comfortable as possible – like they’re coming into a resort. It is hard enough coming into a place like this, let alone when it’s all clinical and scary.”

It is not even scary for kids. A kiddie room with a short-throw projector plays movies for the children who are waiting. When we were there, some kids were kicking back on the beanbags, watching their favorite show.

Kirralee and Zane are both passionate about the environment. Amazingly, Mermaid Beach Radiology is becoming a carbon-neutral practice, which is an excellent achievement for such a  young practice. Says Kirralee, “I keep trying to instill in my children that we are here to make a positive impact. You have to treat the planet and all the living things on it with respect, and we want to model that in our work environment, as well.”

Kirralee and Zane are also on the same page with supporting local artists. “We used local suppliers where we possibly could as well. The front desk is all done by a local artist, Lisa De Boer. Sean Scott is a well-known photographer based in Burleigh. We’ve used his images all around the clinic and backlit them. We love the Gold Coast and as a family-run practice, we want the clinic to celebrate that.

“Zane has worked for other radiology companies. But we wanted to do things differently. We have a more patient-based focus. We aren’t about meeting strict goals. We just want to make sure that the patients have the best imaging journey that they can. If there’s something that can be done on the day, Zane will call the patient’s doctor and progress their imaging further. If injections are required, it can be done there and then, rather than the time-wasting to-ing and fro-ing with other doctors. That all adds to stress and pushes costs up as well.”

Radiology Expertise

Ben Kennedy is a world-renowned MRI scientist and researcher, according to Kirralee. He was formerly head of the MRI modality with the QScan group. When we go to see the MRI in action, he says, “Want to see something cool?”

We always want to see something cool. He  says, “You want to see real-life cerebrospinal fluid flowing through the brain?” He points to the screen. “That’s CSF flowing in and out of the cerebral aqueduct.” It was amazing to see it live. It looked like tomato sauce being squeezed repeatedly through a hose.

Yep. We all stood there and watched spinal fluid flowing through the brain. It was fascinating. The question was asked, “Do all of our bodies do that?” Ben answered, “I hope so.”

MRI is typically considered the most sophisticated imaging tool in radiology. As a pre‑emptive strike, or as a way to get a fast, accurate, early diagnosis, the value for money using MRI is incredible. But even if you feel fit and well but just want peace of mind that there is nothing dark brewing, you can waltz in and get an MRI scan with no radiation.

Says Zane, “You can wake up one day and say, ‘I’m curious what my brain looks like today. I want to go get an MRI.’ And just get it done. We have had people who’ve just come in and just chosen to have a full-body screening for cancer on the MRI. And we’ve almost found something on every one of them. The pick-up rate is huge. We are now the go-to place for doctors on the Gold Coast who want to get themselves and their kids checked out.”

Going Off-Piste

The conventional route of diagnosis is not one Zane is a fan of. “If you’re sick, you don’t wake up one day going, ‘Right, I’m going to go see my doc today. I hope he/she starts me off on this process with the worst available tests.’ But that’s exactly what happens. You go and see your doctor, sick.

You’ll almost always start off with an X-ray which is a 125-year-old technology. Then you might get to an ultrasound. You will rarely get to a CT, and almost never get to an MRI. By the time that has happened, it could be too late. Ask anyone, what is the best diagnostic camera in medicine? Everyone will say MRI. Yet it’s the last thought, not the first thought in the investigative process. Which is bonkers.”

While Medicare will not refund the cost of an MRI scan, which starts at $360, it is still very much worth the price. Says Zane, “Medicare is a great safety net for the less privileged. But it has also forced our thinking towards the idea that we should never put our hand in our pocket when it comes to health care. That is just the wrong mentality.”

girl with a toy in the machine
It is suspected that the monkey in question has a very serious case of fluffyitis

There’s no better way to spend your money than on your health, so you will be around for your loved ones for a long time. You spend similar amounts of money on your hair, a good meal, a couple of bottles of wine. You ARE worth it. In fact, we are all worth it. And in this case, technology is very definitely our friend. ■

How to Make an Appointment

Mermaid Beach Radiology offers Wide Bore 3T MRI, Spectral CT, Cone Beam CT, Ultrasound, X-Ray, biopsies, and all pain relief injections all using the very latest technology. You can make an appointment for any of these, and they accept referrals from all over Australia.

Phone Number: 07 5619 9499

Address: 2469 Gold Coast Hwy, Mermaid Beach


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A Perfect Break Means Big Profits – Let’s Fire Up Some Waves

A Perfect Break Means Big Profits – Let’s Fire Up Some Waves

A perfect break is a money spinner. So let’s add it into our investment mix. Editor-in-Chief Nicole Buckler argues for a perfect wave.

There are ways to attract visitors to an area, like casinos, restaurants, nightlife and adventure parks. But let’s not forget about the reason why people were attracted to the Gold Coast to begin with, before development even began. It was a surfer’s paradise.

The Spit rejuvenation plan has been received with excitement by Gold Coasters. But, we are all worried about over-development and having the area turned into a burnt-out overrun tip. I get the struggle. I am a nature lover at heart. If you come near my turtles with your straws, I will maim you with my pencil IN. YO. FACE.

That said, we all need jobs. We need to keep developing our city to make sure tourists and other Australians keep coming here with their wallets. It is great living in a stunningly beautiful place, with epic weather. But reality says that we need to make it work for us so that we can make a life for ourselves here.  It’s balancing the two competing factors of protecting nature and making it work for us that separates the good mayors from the scoundrels. All we have to do is listen to environmental scientists and take their advice very seriously while creating our liveable utopias. Several fascinating studies have come out recently which speak about how profitable natural phenomena can be to a local economy. So, let’s talk about the one that directly applies to our area: A good wave break.

A Perfect Break

A recent study has shown (to our delight) that good surf breaks create economic growth. The study analysed 5,000 surf breaks globally. Not only did they discover that a good surf break meant an immediate jump in tourism and profits – they also discovered that if the break was destroyed, that the area would decline economically almost right away.

Perfect Break

Perfect Break

The researchers analysed satellite images of night-time lights as a ‘proxy’ for economic growth. The lights increased after a new break was discovered and the word got out. A high-quality surf break boosted growth by 2.2 percentage points per year.

The Research

Dr Sam Wills, of the University of Sydney’s School of Economics was the researcher in question. He wanted to escape the cold and go on a surfing holiday. “I looked for somewhere warm and sunny with good waves. I settled on Taghazout in Morocco, thinking it would be quiet. Flying in at sunset over the desert I noticed that everything was dark, except for one little spot that was lit up like Pitt Street: Taghazout. Once I arrived, I realised that this previously sleepy little fishing village had been overrun by surfers, and so I wanted to figure out whether it was systematically happening around the world.”

It was. It’s well understood that natural features like rivers and fertile soil matter for economic growth, but this research shows that natural amenities are just as valuable.

Researchers also investigated two locations where surf breaks were removed and found that nearby economies shrink when this occurs. A break at Jardim do Mar, Portugal, was removed though the construction of a coastal road, while another at Mundaka, Spain, disappeared after a river mouth was dredged.

The paper suggests that building or taking care of existing surf breaks can create jobs. And in tandem, protecting environmental quality is a must. But there is a way to do both on the Gold Coast: by building artificial reefs.

Artificial Reefs

As we all know by now, Palm Beach will soon be home to an artificial reef, work started last April.  The $18.2 million project is being built primarily to protect the beach and stop the sand from being constantly washed away. But it is hoped that it will actually create more surfable weaves. The perfect break. Also, once established, the reef will be a haven for wildlife. Local surfers have divided opinions on wave creation: some say it will work and others doubt the possibilities. We will soon find out!

The Spit redevelopers hope to create an artificial reef using sculptures, which I am super-excited about. But while we are creating reefs, why not throw a few more into the mix and make the Spit a surfing haven? Let’s build a guaranteed perfect break or two. I would really love policy-makers to feel this idea. Reefs are often built to protect beaches, so, why not make ones that would not only stop erosion and protect infrastructure, but as an added bonus, could create consistently perfect waves?

Many “perfect break spots” all over the world owe their existence to developments along coastal areas that were built without the wave breaks even in mind. “The Wedge” in California is an example: It was created after a wall was built to ensure boats could get into the harbour safely.

Perfect Break

Perfect Break

The Perfect Break

Artificial surfing reefs have been topical for the past few years all over the world. So we can definitely have the conversation for the Spit development. Oceanographers all over the world are trying to perfect a system that will see the perfect break appear every single day. There’s a good foundation of knowledge as to how to change the ocean floors to affect a wave break. It’s an exciting idea.

Standard beach waves can be unpredictable: waves can change as sandbanks move around. But waves breaking off solid, established reefs are the best going: They are consistent, and look the same 20 years ago as they do today – as long as the reef remains protected and intact.

Here’s the bad news: Artificial reefs are expensive. But let’s start seeing this as an investment, rather than a cost. The future benefits will make them more than worth it. I’m ready to put my taxes against this uncertain utopia, how about you?

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