Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 22 September 2017

Drainage and sports contractors make move for Irish Eco-Drainer

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY: One of the key advantages of the Eco-Drainer machine is that it does not require the use of plastic land drainage pipe
ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY: One of the key advantages of the Eco-Drainer machine is that it does not require the use of plastic land drainage pipe
INNOVATIVE: Local contractor Peter Donohoe is pictured with the Eco Drainer inventor, Longford man Liam McNamee
Derek Casey

Derek Casey

An Irish-designed machine for draining heavy land is gathering more and more attention due to its clever design. Longford designer and farmer Liam McNamee, from Moyne, first unveiled his 'Eco-Drainer' machine publicly at the National Ploughing Championships back in September.

Since then, Mr McNamee has had plenty of enquiries from drainage and sports turf contractors around the country. He now has a number of machines in the production line with a further 10 customers "at the business end of ordering".

He is also in the process of making some important modifications to the machine's design to further improve its ability to work on very wet land.

To find out how the machine works, I recently called to see its inventor, Mr McNamee, along with local contractor, Peter Donohoe, who is based in Dromard, Co Longford, and bought the first Eco-Drainer machine earlier this year.

Despite the dry summer and autumn, it was clear on my drive up that there are still plenty of fields in need of drainage work in the area. Mr Donohoe says he has been getting good results from the work he has done so far for local farmers.

How does it work?

Mr McNamee told me he first conceived the idea for the Eco-Drainer just 13 months ago when he needed a machine that was able to drain and quickly remove water from field surfaces during periods of heavy rain.

Since then, he has made impressive progress, going from the initial drawing phase on to building the machine and then successfully testing it out in a number of field trials -- all done in one year.

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"One of the key advantages of this machine is that it does not require the use of plastic land drainage pipes," he said.

"We know from experience that once you go west of the Shannon, it is a waste of time using drainage pipes.

"There's quite a high iron content in the soil in this region and it results in pipes getting blocked. The water cannot get in to drain away so it just doesn't work."

To get around this issue, the Eco-Drainer machine consists of a set of powered discs mounted under a 6.5t capacity trailed gravel hopper.

These discs cut a seven-inch slit in the soil down to a depth of around 15 inches (this can be changed depending on the farmer's requirements).

The contractor, Mr Donohoe, said that most farmers opt to make a channel about every 7-8m in a field that needs to be drained. The channel is then filled to the field surface with drainage gravel backfill.

Channels

This allows the water to drain into the channels which can in turn lead to open watercourses to the side of a field to help take surface water away as fast as possible and get the field working properly again.

The machine cost for the system is in the region €0.50 per metre before gravel costs. A full gravel hopper will cover between 80-90m depending on the working depth.

This means that a standard 22t load of gravel will be sufficient to drain about a 350m distance.

Mr McNamee said many, but not all, farmers then opt to give the field surface a run of a chain harrow before it is rolled for reseeding.

"The way the machine works, it doesn't leave a big mess on the surface of the field because the soil is macerated as it is channelled out before being thrown off to the left.

"This means there are no big clods or stones that have to be picked up as with other drainage systems.

"The channels are only seven inches wide and the grass doesn't take long to tiller up again, even without reseeding."

The nature of the task of draining land means that the first requirement of any drainage machine is that it should not make the land any worse in terms of compaction and ground damage.

Mr McNamee was aware of this basic requirement from the start and he is now in the process of making another very important modification to the Eco-Drainer to allow the machine to work in even wetter fields.

"From testing the machine and gauging customer feedback, we have decided to make all future Eco-Drainers with a driven axle as standard," he said. "The power to the machine's two wheels will come from a hydraulic pump that is powered off the tractor PTO.

"This means when the machine is attached to a standard 4WD tractor, you essentially will have a six-wheel drive system, making it possible to go into very wet land and successfully drain the field.

"When the six tonne gravel hopper is full to capacity and for farms with lots of hilly ground, we expect the driven axle to be the difference in being able to get the job done or not.

"It won't be cheap to build, hydraulic motors tend to be expensive, but that is what the market is demanding and we want to ensure we deliver the best product we can."

Interested readers can see a video of the machine working at the company's website, www.ecocombidrainage.com. Readers in the Longford region looking to get land drained can contact local contractor Peter Donohoe on 087 8302049.

Irish Independent