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Rain salesman says his business is attracting investors, but experts say his claims don't stack up

By Danielle Grindlay, Thursday October 24, 2019 - 14:47 EDT
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ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh says Miles Research is preying on farmers in a desperate situation. - ABC licensed

Miles Research chief executive David Miles is building a following in the Victorian grain belt, where a group of farmers have paid for rainfall between May and October.





The company is marketing three-month rain contracts to farming regions for $250,000.

"A good John Deere tractor is worth $500,000 — for six month's rain, it's worth a John Deere tractor isn't it?" Mr Miles said.

"We're offering rain into any region in Australia, that would engage with us on a success basis."

Mr Miles also said non-farmers had invested "several million dollars" via a separate company called Sovereignty, which enabled him to keep the technology concealed from shareholders.



He does not have any scientific credentials, claiming the weather modification expertise is self-taught.

"I just believed from the start that there is no problem given to man … that cannot be solved," he said.

Mr Miles said he had declined offers from two foreign governments wishing to buy his technology outright.

He also claims to be picky about potential clients.

"We've had phone calls — 'can you make sure we have a sunny day for our wedding?'

"You know, we really don't do public events.

"We've done a few favours for a couple of people, but that's it."

A 'cruel hoax' rebranded

In 2006 the Victorian Department of Primary Industries labelled Mr Miles' company, then Aquiess, a "cruel hoax" that was "taking money from farmers already doing it tough".

The company has since rebranded as Miles Research, updated its website and promoted its services with full-page advertisements in regional newspapers.



Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke labelled Mr Miles a "snake oil salesman" and urged vulnerable farmers not to engage with his company.

"Farmers are under extreme duress at the moment," he said.

"We see this kind of business pop up when we are seeing absolute duress, when we're seeing people at the end of their tether.

"I just really implore everybody to take a really hard look at this … and either hold onto their money or make better decisions in these harder times."

'Preying on people's desperation': ACCC deputy chairman

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deputy chairman Mick Keogh said it was a difficult area to regulate.

"You can put psychics, water diviners, astrologers [and] all sorts of questionable services into the same category," Mr Keogh said.

"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."



A farmer himself, Mr Keogh said the level of interest in Miles Research was disappointing.

"It's preying on people's desperation, it seems to me, as an individual, to be engaging in these sort of promises," he said.

"You get to a point sometimes, wondering whether it will ever rain again, so I guess you would get to a level of desperation about things that might work."

'A friend with a big heart': Wimmera client

Wimmera farmer Peter*, is among a group that signed contracts between May and October.

He described Mr Miles as a friend with a "heart for the people and where they're struggling."



Peter could not reveal how much he paid Mr Miles, due to confidentiality agreements, but was happy with the investment.

"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 [and] you know that he's behind it," he said.

"I reckon I haven't seen such good crops in this district ever."

When promised rain does not fall, which Peter said happened several times, Mr Miles has an explanation.

"Because he has so much involved, with so many parameters going on that creates the weather, you only have to get one of them wrong and you miss the ship," he said.

"The classical one was a week or so ago, he went to bed at 1:30am thinking the job was under control, and by 3:00am it had changed.

"That meant that the event that was coming, they got it in South Australia but we didn't get it here."

Peter is acutely aware of the criticism and stigma that comes with signing a Miles Research contract.

"It disappoints me, when the evidence is right in front of them," he said.

"They'd rather knock the giver than recognise the gift."

Secret technology poses 'threat to nations'

Mr Miles will not show Peter or anyone else his technology, nor will he share the methods behind his claims due to the "threat" it poses.

"Look this could be easily weaponised," Mr Miles said.

"We've been advised early on … not to patent but rather try and keep it a little bit like Coca Cola secrets, split up in multiple locations.

"You know, a sceptic will say 'well therefore it doesn't exist,' and okay, I think that's a naive approach."



Associate professor of physics Martin Sevior reviewed the Miles Research website, which states that "electromagnetic scalar waves" are used to manipulate weather.

"Electromagnetic scalar waves don't exist. There's no such thing," Dr Sevior said.

"He's taken a few words and put them together and made them sound somewhat scientific, but it's meaningless.

"I've spent my entire professional life, and a large part of it before then, being educated about physics and I can tell people that there's absolutely no scientific validity to anything that this person is saying."

Mr Miles agreed the terminology was "nonsensical," again pointing to a need to mask his technology.

"There is information that's a little bit obscure because that's a way of firewalling the core intellectual property, so that it can't be weaponised and used to harm nations," he said.

"So I think I'd probably side with [Dr Sevior] that it doesn't make sense and I think part of the problem has been navigating the safety of how we take this forward."

The evidence

Mr Miles' evidence is rainfall that exceeds what was forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology.

For 2019 he pointed to Wimmera rainfall in May and June, which was above average.



"It's highly unlikely [the Wimmera] is going to have two months' good rain, on a target when they've signed a contract, where the rest of Australia is forecast to be in drought," he said.

"I welcome the world's leading statistical expert to show us the statistical probability that this season — or even just May and June rainfall over the Wimmera — to show us what that likelihood is."

In fact the bureau's seasonal outlook for May suggested there was a 40 per cent chance the Wimmera would get higher than average rainfall; for June, the forecast was closer to a 50-50 chance of above average rainfall.

Most of Victoria recorded above average rainfall for May, along with much of the Northern Territory, far northern and southern South Australia, areas of New South Wales and western Tasmania.

June was much worse for most places, but rainfall was above average in parts of the northern interior of Queensland, pockets of western Victoria and parts of southwest Western Australia.

'I wouldn't bet on the forecast': Meteorology professor

Associate professor of meteorology Todd Lane, from the University of Melbourne, said rainfall was the "most difficult thing to forecast".

"For that forecast that says there's a 60 per cent chance of rain; it also means there's a 40 per cent chance of no rain," he said.

"It's quite close to 50-50, which is a toss of a coin."

Dr Lane said seasonal forecasts were notoriously imprecise.

"If I was a betting man, I would not spend my money on the seasonal forecast," he said.

"While they do add value, there's so much uncertainty associated with these seasonal predictions.

"It's not particularly surprising if we get really wet conditions, based on a dry forecast, or drier conditions based on a dry forecast."

*The farmer wished to remain anonymous.


- ABC

© ABC 2019

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