Farm safety and farmers' mental well-being were the focus of some rural-centred projects on show at this year's BT Young Scientist Exhibition in Dublin.
The death of a friend in a farm accident last January was the reason three students from St Anne's Community College in Killaloe, Co Clare decided to design a farm safety project.
Fourth Year students Sarah McKeogh (16), Adam Fogarty (16) and Elise McWey (15) showcased their Farmer Finder app at the competition in the RDS.
"The project is basically an app that can detect whether someone is moving or not. If you stop moving, say you got in an accident, it will set a timer for length of time that you chose, and once that timer runs out it is going to send an alert to your phone to see if you're okay," explains Adam.
"If you respond to it, it will reset it and start again but if you don't respond it will send a text to the contact you chose, telling them to ring you to make sure you're okay." Elise, who is from a beef farming background, says they hope to include a GPS tracker in the app in the future, to pinpoint the exact location of the farmer.
She says the app is reassuring for both farmers and their families and could save lives.
"Our friend last year died in a farm accident so we wanted to do something to prevent farm accidents, he was 15. I think farmers know it is dangerous but they don't take care.
"They just think that they've been doing it for so many years now and nothing will happen - but anything could go wrong," she says.
"It's reassuring for farm families because if a farmer is on their own anything could go wrong. Ministers have given us good feedback and Agri-Aware and IFA said they would test the app for us if we wanted, which is very helpful."
Meanwhile, Loreto Fermoy student Ellen Kingston's Blue Locker project provides an alternative use for blue barrels.
"I wanted to upcycle blue barrels as I saw my dad was using them as troughs. I built a frame in the barrel that farmers can use to safely store needles and dosing bottles," says Ellen whose father, Gerard, is a dairy farmer in Bartlemy, Co Cork.
Mental Health and the fodder crisis
In Longford, Ballymahon Vocational School students Patrick Connaughton, Frankie Moffatt and Darragh Whyte analysed the impact the 2018 fodder crisis had on farmers.
"We learned that 70pc of farmers were affected mentally by the fodder crisis but worryingly only 25pc of those got medical assistance," says Patrick. "Seventy per cent said they are ready for another fodder crisis but we don't know if they are mentally ready. Farmers tend to bottle things up."
Clare man Aidan Quigney from Kilmore and Jack O’Connor whose father runs a dairy farm in Banogue, Co Limerick fused their technology and farming interest to create How Now Brown Cow, a device which uses sensors to monitor cow movement, heat and illness.
The transition year students who attend Ardscoil Ris in Limerick say that the collar would be no bigger than a deck of cards and would save farmers money and allow them to become more efficient.
“It uses data from a temperature sensor that sends information to a cloud, so the farmer can detect issues with the cow,” says Jack.
SafeSlat, a device to detect damage in slats on farms across the country was designed by Ava Geary (15), Sarah Leahy (16) and Molly-Jay Deasy (16) from Colaiste Choilm in Ballincollig, Cork.
Sarah and her friends invented SafeSlat because Sarah had seen her dad, Sean, a diary farmer in Waterfall, Co Cork, have trouble with slats in the past.“My father had a lot of experience of slats breaking and knew of people who had drowned as a result of slurry slat issues. Slurry drownings are the fifth most common deaths on farms,” she said.
SafeSlat is an app which allows
farmers to put their phones — attached to a selfie stick — down the slat to check for corrosion and damage. Ava explained that farmers should ideally check their slats in the summer when the cows are out of the shed and there is no slurry stored in the slats.
Saving Young Lambs Lives
Second Year students Eimear Galvin (14), Hannah Lennon (14), and Millie O’Brien (14), pupils of Our Lady’s Bower, Athlone, Co Westmeath used their coding abilities to help create a project that could help save new born lambs from dying of hypothermia.
Hannah Lennon, whose grandfather Frank is a sheep farmer, noticed that lambs dying from hypothermia is a big problem for farmers. She said their project LambWatch could help save lambs’ lives. “We created a device through coding that allows farmers to set a desired temperature in the shed and when it drops below this desired temperature an infrared lamp will turn on for the lambs automatically,” says Hannah. “This means farmers don’t have to worry about their lambs and when the shed rises above the desired temperature of 37-39°C, it will turn off again.”
Seamus O’Sullivan (16), Ralph O’Mahony (16), and Adrian Crowley (16), of Ardscoil Ui Urmoltaigh, Bandon, Co Cork, demonstrating their ladder locking system. The system is aimed at reducing farm fatalities and injuries by making ladders safer to use.
The product allows farmers to slide their ladder in to an aluminium structure stabilising it to prevent falls. The students have already received a patent for the product and hope in time that they can develop it and sell it.
“My father Jimmy was a huge help to us as he is an engineer and was able to cut up the aluminium for us,” says Seamus from Kilbrittain. Adrian who is from a dairy farm in Coppeen explained that they carried out a survey at the National Dairy Show in Millstreet where 70pc of farmers said they would be interested in buying a ladder safety product, while 65pc said ladder safety needed improvement.