A spirit of innovation deep within its roots.
The Tonsley Innovation District is new, but with a site history as an economic powerhouse.
Tonsley has been the home of innovation and sustainability since the 1800s; and fifty years ago, Tonsley was a cornerstone of South Australia’s manufacturing industry.
Today, it integrates environmental, social and economic opportunities. There’s a focus on innovation, education, health and collaboration in a quality environment.
At the same time, it respects its past.
Benjamin Babbage, one of the early property owners at Tonsley, made a major contribution to engineering, exploration and many scientific fields.
Babbage experimented with growing vines, olives, citrus and roses. Some of the new varieties of roses which Babbage cultivated are still in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.
Richard Ragless and his family introduced several new implements to assist with their farm and market garden in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Their entrepreneurial spirit is shown by the chaff mill they established to supply the local and Victorian market with chaff — the fuel of its day.
Tonsley, which Richard Ragless named after Tonsley Hall in England, was a model farm in the late 1800s — characterised by great diversity, entrepreneurial-ship and practices that today are promoted as environmentally sustainable.
Christopher Ragless and son Max kept the family tradition of innovation in purchasing a Cletrac tractor — thought to be one of the first Caterpillar tractors to be used in South Australia.
Max Ragless recycled a Triumph motorcycle into a Ziff cycle car, and then recycled that into a pedal tractor for his young son, David.
The Ragless family developed their own variety of almond that withstood strong hot winds in summer without dropping the nuts.
Chrysler Australia opened its Australian vehicle manufacturing plant at Tonsley — the largest assembly plant in Australia operating under one roof.
Throughout Tonsley’s automotive period, the site provided a manufacturing skills base in South Australia.
A highlight of Chrysler Australia’s innovation was the development of the Hemi-6 engine in the early 1970s — used in the Valiant and unique to Australia.
It was the most powerful six-cylinder engine produced in Australia, with 20% greater fuel economy.
Chrysler Australia was also innovative for that time in using Stirling Moss to promote the new Hemi-6 engine.
In an era when sustainability was not a prominent concern, Chrysler Australia was a major recycler of paper and scrap metal generated in the production line while operating in Tonsley.
Mitsubishi Motors purchased the Tonsley site and continued to produce cars until 2008.
Mitsubishi was also major recycler of paper and scrap metal.
Mitsubishi introduced multi-skilling at Tonsley — an innovative management style for the 1980s.
Mitsubishi introduced computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technology to its tool shop.
The first female engineer at Mitsubishi at Tonsley joined the company and felt that they were well ahead of its time in providing a family-friendly workplace.
Mitsubishi installed 38 robots in the body weld shop at Tonsley, 60 computerised sewing machines in the cut and sew section, and transitioned manual painting to robotic spraying in the paint shop.
Government of South Australia purchases the 61-hectare site to establish a smart technology mixed-use precinct for industry, education, retail and residential living.