Agri-inventors raise the bar: farm labour-saving ideas to the fore at this year's National Inventions event

Derek Casey

Derek Casey

One of the highlights of the Tullamore Show every year is the National Inventions Competition, an event that attracts the curiosity in all of us and it's become a must-visit area for regular visitors to the show.

This year a total fund of €2,500 in prize money was up for grabs, provided by three sponsors; the Farming Independent, WR Shaw, and Glenngorey Pumps Ltd.

The beauty of all the inventions at Tullamore is that they are usually borne out of necessity on farms.

Walking around the inventions section at the Show I met some real characters, and they all had an infectious enthusiasm in the search for that winning idea.

Many of the inventors are from family farming backgrounds but have diversified into off-farm jobs as well.

This year there was a strong labour-saving and safety dimension to the inventions that did well. Judges I spoke to at the show commented on the professional presentation of the inventions, with some of the designs already patent-approved and ready for market.

Rodney Cox, the Inventions Competition organiser, a was particularly pleased to see a strong presence of student inventors this year.

"Earlier in the year we made a big drive to let the various agricultural colleges know that we wanted students to get their creative juices flowing," Mr Cox explained.

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"Some of the brightest and best ideas come from young people with farming backgrounds and that was proven again this year. Winning an award here can get you publicity and recognition to get an invention off the ground."

Slurry scraper

First place in the 2019 student category went to Barry Loughnane from Ennis, Co Clare, for his ingenious 'Slurry Scraper' device. Barry told me how his winning idea came about as a result of a third-year project he had to do as part of his agri-mechanisation course in IT Tralee.

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It is fitted to the underside of a slurry tanker and cleans a cow roadway clear of muck, funnelling the muck into the path of the vacuum tanker pipe. The device allows stones to pass through while slurry is taken into the tank for spreading, leaving a clean roadway.

Barry says there is nothing like this currently on the market. He has patented it but has not yet decided on a price point.

Removable Bucket Grab

In the students invention category, Jack Hennessy from Kilkenny took silver for this smart idea of a Removable Bucket Grab. Jack came up with the idea and then designed and built the grab himself in order to increase the versatility of the farm bucket and allow it to help with feeding cattle.

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There is a quick attach on the grab to lock on to the bucket easily. The grab will fit a five to six-foot wide bucket. Jack hopes to sell the Removable Bucket Grab for around €1,100.

Daisy Bed

Kilkenny man John Purcell came up with the 'Daisy Bed', which sweeps and beds cubicles in one pass. It features a variable height 80cm diameter brush and a dispenser than can be used for spreading lime or sawdust for bedding.

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The machine drew a lot of interest from dairy farmers and is made and sold by John and his brother at Purcell Agri in Kilkenny. It is powered by a 6hp engine and, according to John, is priced at €6,500, including VAT.

Meal Scoop

Robert Davis from Borrisokane, Co Tipperary, came up with this clever 'Meal Scoop'. It can fill a standard meal bag by driving the scoop into the meal heap and pulling down the crossbar.

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As pictured, this causes the hinged scoop to pivot upwards, funnelling the meal down into a bag which can be mounted on to hooks. Robert, who is an engineer and comes from a farming family, said he came up with the idea to help speed up the meal bagging process.

Third arm

First place in the 'Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry' section went to Philip Dickson of Moate, Co Westmeath, for his 'Third Arm' device that is sure to save lives in the future.

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The unit is powered off the tractor's own electrical auxiliary and features a small powered ram for widening or narrowing a tractor's lift arms into place when attaching a three-point linkage implement.

Philip grew up on a farm and is an engineer by trade. He came up with the invention in a bid to make his father's life easier and reduce the risk of accidents.

"Dad was struggling a bit with attaching bigger implements on his own - he would often call me in work to come and help. Hooking up implements can be a dangerous task as many farmers have suffered crush injuries while reaching across the back of a tractor."

Meal riser

In the 'Labour-saving' class, the trophy for first place went to Adrian Keegan from Athleague, Co Roscommon, for his 'Meal Riser', which saves farmers from straining their backs when taking meal from a bin. The spring-loaded base in the meal bin rises gradually as the feed is emptied and reducing in weight.

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This means farmers don't have to lean into the bin, get dust in the face or strain their back. Another benefit is that old, rotten feed can be cleared out rather than being left to contaminate any new meal that is added to the bin. Priced at €750, including VAT, for the spring device or €1,000, including the bin itself (which is made by JFC).

'Sock on Sock off'

First place in the 'Inventions in Home, Leisure and Building' category this year went to veteran inventor Tony Bergin from Roscrea, Co Tipperary, for his 'Sock on Sock off' device which does exactly what it says on the tin - making the awkward job of putting socks on that but easier for anyone with achy joints.

"I use it every morning myself and it's a life saver," said 81-year-old Tony, who had two inventions entered this year. "It allows a low-mobility person to put on and take off socks, compression bandages and shoes easily."

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