$50k for rain: Farmers ‘preyed’ on
A controversial inventor accused of "preying" on vulnerable farmers by promising to make it rain has insisted "there's no way we want to con anyone".
David Miles from Miles Research has been peddling weather modification technology for nearly two decades, previously under the name Aquiess, which the Victorian Government highly criticised in 2006.
Mr Miles is currently offering three-month rain contracts to farmers in Victoria's grain belt for $50,000 on a "success basis". The competition regulator has warned against doing business with him, but says it is powerless to stop him.
"It's preying on people's desperation," Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chairman Mick Keogh told ABC Radio on Wednesday.
"If you wanted to prosecute a court requires you to prove essentially that there's no basis for the claims being made and that is a very difficult thing to do. By far the very best defence against them is widespread consumer education. It's up to individuals obviously to make their own mind up. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is."
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Speaking to news.com.au on Wednesday, Mr Miles accused the ACCC of defaming him.
"How can they do that without looking at our contracts? We're success based, if we don't deliver rain we don't get paid," he said.
"I think the ACCC probably jumped the gun in making that comment. They've never seen the contracts, they haven't spoken with me. We don't mind scepticism, but the Government needs to be careful not to defame us as they did in 2006."
Mr Miles said he currently had a "small, private group" of farmers in Wimmera, "let's just say a handful", who had seen results in his pilot program.
"They signed the agreement that if by the end of June they'd received 100mm, they pay $50,000, if they only receive 50mm, they would only pay $25,000. Anything under half we don't want to be paid," he said.
One member of the group told ABC Radio they were happy with the service.
"I got involved because it sounded good, the fact you can control weather, because as a farmer rainfall is everything," he told the broadcaster.
"I think the evidence is out there, you look at the forecast what's meant to come and all of a sudden it increases dramatically. You know that he's behind it and I reckon I haven't seen such good crops in this district ever, everywhere."
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Mr Miles refuses to reveal how his technology works, saying he fears it could be stolen by competitors or "weaponised" by governments. He said he wants to raise $10 million to build a "facility" to fully develop and prove the technology.
"There's no way we want to con anyone," he said. "Our best approach at the moment is to put up a risk-free model, so the farmers can get some rain and we can get some income to get a facility. We've been able to make adjustments to approaching weather and we want to be able to offer that to the rest of Australia."
On his website, he claims he can create a "bridge" in the "space-time continuum" to model the weather 10 days in the future, and then "apply small amounts of energy intelligently" to bring about the desired outcome through the "butterfly effect".
"The key to the whole thing is we've found a way to link a model of the near future weather with the actual flight corridor of approaching weather for any given target," Mr Miles said. "With a linked model we're able to upload adjustments into our cocoon, if you like, and see those adjustments."
Nowhere does he explain the actual physical device or method by which he does this. In one section of his website, since deleted, he claimed the technology uses "electromagnetic scalar waves".
"Electromagnetic scalar waves don't exist," University of Melbourne associate professor of physics Martin Sevior told ABC Radio. "There's no such thing. He's taken a few words and put them together and made them sound somewhat scientific but it's meaningless."
Mr Miles said the reference to electromagnetic scalar waves was "legacy material on the website that has been updated a little bit" and pointed instead to a 48-page "whitepaper", which also does not explain how the technology works.
Pressed for details, Mr Miles insisted "it is a device", likening it to a bank "vault".
"I can say openly we're currently hidden in plain sight because we haven't raised the capital to fund a proper facility," he said.
"We've got disparate components, we've been tutored in how to hide in plain sight … but we need a Defence-grade facility where we can bring it together, for the moment we're having to operate fairly low-key."
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Asked why he had not patented his technology, Mr Miles said: "We were advised against patenting because it's basically exposing how it works. There are a lot of big companies that invest in trawling through patents. We thought it's probably right to go down the lines of Coca-Cola."
He added: "I understand the scepticism, the only other way is to fully prove up our science and physics and peer review. If we did that we'll lose it, it will be taken up as a national security interest and it'll then be weaponised."
According to Miles Research, Mr Miles' company Sovereignty Pty Ltd "holds and protects the weather modification" intellectual property.
Its most recent accounts filed with the corporate regulator show Sovereignty Pty Ltd lost $70,000 in the 2017-18 financial year, had less than $1300 cash in the bank and debts of nearly $780,000.
Mr Miles says he ultimately wants a 1 per cent cut of any additional agricultural output from participating regions that subscribe to his weather modification technology, which in the case of Wimmera he claims is $1 billion.
He insists he's not simply cashing in on an act of God.
"We're going out and putting our name on the line that we will deliver rain," he said. "We're prepared to let the client region define the metrics - if you're confident of getting 50mm, perhaps start at 60mm. Our pricing is coming in under the cost of shipping water."
He said the company had failed to deliver the promised rain in 2006 due to a Consumer Affairs investigation taking up "all of our time".
"We weren't able to complete the season for clients, we gave some money back to farmers," he said.
"When engaged to deliver rain in recent times we've been able to (deliver) most of what was (promised), sometimes not enough, it's not perfect. We have been able to achieve about 80 per cent. We lose our reputation if we fail - we haven't failed."