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Mesh white-ants termite threat

SIX years ago WA pest exterminator Vic Toutountzis saw a threat to his industry – a ban on the main chemicals used to kill termites.

He developed a fine, marine-grade stainless steel mesh that stops termites entering a home, an invention that led to an Australia-wide company and exports to the US, Japan and Singapore.

Mr Toutountzis’ company, TMA Australia, sells Termimesh, which has been fitted to about 160,000 Australian homes and also has been applied to communi-cations cables, such as the JASARSAUS cable from Indonesia, junction boxes and telephone poles.

For some reason, termites are drawn to electrical cabling. Electrical problems such as blown fuses can be an early indicator of termite infestation.

The company even runs a termite lab that boasts its own colony of termites. It also tests the product in Darwin, which has most of the world’s termite species as residents.

TMA Corporation national sales and marketing manager Ken Birch said the product’s chemical-free status had proved a winning sales proposition.

“We find the homeowner is the major driver for the product. They prefer a non-chemical solution,” Mr Birch said.

“The acceptance of the product is very much from the consumer. Our main competitors are still chemical sprays and their makers are large US-based conglomerates.”

The company’s export push, particularly into the US, was helped by the US Government moving to ban many of the sprays used to kill termites.

In fact, one of the sprays used in Australia has been banned in six US states.

However, penetrating the US market was difficult.

Despite the company’s testing regimes the product had to be tested against local termites, by US testing agencies, before it would be accepted.

US legislation also requires products such as Termimesh be made by US manufacturers. This forced TMA to search for a company that could make the mesh to its specifications.

Then there was the hurdle of the different building techniques used.

In the US, Termimesh has been used in many homes, to protect Hawaiian telephone poles and even to protect the new IBM building in Houston, Texas.

TMA subsidiary Smartbuilt general manager Neil Watt believes the company’s international feats have been quite an achievement.

“This is not a sexy product,” Mr Watt said.

“To get into countries such as the US and Japan on its effects and environmental benefits is quite an achievement.”

While the product has proved effective in combating termites, TMA has no plans to tackle the established home market.

Mr Watt said the cost of retrofitting the mesh to a building was prohibitive.

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