Sunday 25 September 2016

Young scientists add a splash of colour to farming

Published 13/01/2016 | 02:30

Desmond College, Limerick students, Siún Ní Cheallaigh with Róisín Nolan and Alanna Slater (all 16) pictured with their BT Young Scientist project which is a development of a natural pH indicator to detect spoilage in milk. Frank Mc Grath
Desmond College, Limerick students, Siún Ní Cheallaigh with Róisín Nolan and Alanna Slater (all 16) pictured with their BT Young Scientist project which is a development of a natural pH indicator to detect spoilage in milk. Frank Mc Grath
BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2016 overall prize to Maria Louise Fufezan (16) and Diana Bura (15) from Loreto Secondary School Balbriggan

A red cabbage derived indicator to detect spoiled milk, a text alert for calving cows and a colour-coded cattle dosing system are just a handful of innovative inventions farmers could be using in five years time.

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Modernising agriculture and food safety were popular themes at this year's BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

The winners Maria Louise Fufezan (16) and 15-year-old Diana Bura (inset below) took home the top prize for their project examining the effects of enzymes used in animal feed additives on the livespan of nematode worms. Speaking about the winning entry, category judge Professor Grace McCormack commented: "These students have asked a novel question - could there be any effects of enzymes added to animal feed on worms of importance for soil fertility? The girls provide new evidence that there may be an unexpected detrimental change in behaviour and lifespan of these essential worms. The work is important for the environment and the food industry."

Maria and Diana were presented with a cheque for €5,000, and will now represent Ireland at the 28th European Union Young Scientist competition in Brussels later this year.

Another competition entrant Niamh Cusack (12) and Amy Looney (13) from Limerick mixed a colourant additive with current cattle parasite doses to create a highlighter to identify dosed cows.

"We made a green dye out of E102 and E142 to add into the pour-on dose," said Amy.

The Easy-dose then highlights which animals have been dosed successfully with a green stain.

The girls from Salesian Secondary College, Pallaskenry, believe their idea could take off on the market.

Siún Ní Cheallaigh, Róisín Nolan and Alanna Slater, all 16, from Limerick presented their natural pH indicator for detecting spoiled milk.

Siún explained the indicator was made from red cabbage, and could be added straight to a milk sample or added to litmus paper.

The fifth year students from Desmond College found that if the colour remained purple, the milk was fresh.

If the colour turned pink or lilac, the milk was gone off.

Desmond College, Limerick students, Siún Ní Cheallaigh with Róisín Nolan and Alanna Slater (all 16) pictured with their BT Young Scientist project which is a development of a natural pH indicator to detect spoilage in milk. Frank Mc Grath

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