Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Ploughing, it's easy to become complacent with so much new metal on display. For a truly new idea or concept, there will always be a buzz around the stand.
This activity can only be created by something that hasn't been seen before to date, yet is badly needed in the market. Walking around Tullamore last week, I'm glad to be able to say there were a few examples of Irish manufacturers coming up with the goods.
I spotted three Irish companies who exhibited novel ideas at the Ploughing and each idea has the power to greatly cut costs and improve safety for farming.
Praise has go to the NPA, Enterprise Ireland and the Farmers Journal for their Innovation Arena, which brings back some of the old magic to the Ploughing.
Two of the three companies I profile here exhibited in the arena, which gives a platform for smaller manufacturers (who often have the biggest ideas) to get their machine or concept out into the open.
Well done to all.
MAGGROW-ING IN STATURE
MagGrow is an AgTech start-up company that uses magnetic spraying technology to reduce spray drift by up to 80pc. The company, founded in 2013, is headquartered at NovaUCD, the Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs at University College Dublin, and currently employs a staff of 12 people.
It works by attaching a magnetic insert into a sprayer which imparts an electromagnetic charge into the sprayed liquid. All living plants and soil have a magnetic field and so the charged
liquid is attracted to its target. The magnetic insert can be retrofitted to any sprayer — from knapsack to self-propelled — at an approximate cost of €1,000 per metre sprayer width.
Daryl Kaplice of MagGrow explained; “We believe we are dealing with groundbreaking technology that has significant transformational benefits for the arable and horticultural sectors. The world’s population is estimated to grow to over nine billion by 2050, so the demand for food and water will increase dramatically. By using current farming methods, we will simply not meet this demand. We have to find better and more sustainable ways to grow and this is where MagGrow fits in.”
The company already has a track record in winning awards — MagGrow won the Sustainable Agriculture Start-up and the Best Competitive Pitch awards at the 2016 Innovation Arena, while earlier this year, the company was named winner of the 2016 Thrive Accelerator Sustainability Award at the second annual Forbes AgTech Summit held in California.
Tom Carrigan’s Eurotec round bale chaser machine won the top prize at the Innovations Arena worth over €15,000.
Mr Carrigan’s concept is an entirely new design that he came up with himself out of frustration of not being able to transport and store round bales quickly enough to prevent damage by birds.
The bale chaser took him nearly four years to perfect and it works by self-loading 16 round bales and then offloading them into neat stacks of eight bales at a time. It takes about 15 minutes to load the chaser and seven minutes to unload, with no need for a tractor-front loader. The machine weighs six tonnes unladen. When laden, the bales are safely restrained on board so safety is massively increased. The bale chaser contains some serious metal and Mr Carrigan’s engineering background gave him the added impetus to see it over the finish line.
“I make a lot of wrapped bales on the home farm in Kilkenny so the idea came from necessity really,” he explained.
“It’s a fairly complex machine that I have developed out of a simple farm workshop thus far, but that isn’t going to be sustainable going forward. Luckily, I’ve received quite a bit of interest from manufacturers at the Ploughing so that will help scale up production in the future.”
Now an established company, Dromone Engineering continues to set itself apart from the competition by the frequency and quality of its innovations. Based in Oldcastle in Co Meath, the
company has always had a massive focus on safety and practicability with its famous hitch designs.
The proof is in the pudding and Dromone hitches are now used in various guises by the big boys in tractor manufacturing all over the world, including the ‘big three’ of John Deere, New Holland and Massey Ferguson.
Recently, Dromone turned their attention to the safety chain systems used when towing trailers and their latest invention was on show at the Health and Safety Authority stand at the Ploughing.
The role of a safety chain is to make sure a trailer remains attached to the tractor, even if the primary hitch fails. Up until now, many people used long horizontal type chains for this job, but there are grave dangers with this approach.
Most seriously, a long chain gives too much freedom to the trailer drawbar when the primary hitch fails. The drawbar can come up through the rear window of the tractor, causing injury or death to the driver.
Pat McCormack, the gifted yet unassuming engineer behind many of Dromone’s best innovations, knew there had to be a better way.
“We came up with a vertical chain position that only allows four to five inches of movement of the trailer should the primary hitch fail. Brackets on the tractor and trailer have an automatic locking system for the chain to be received and prevent it from escaping. Our system is safer, prevents injury to the driver and reduces breakages to the back of the tractor.”