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Armed for success — clever farm safety device goes into mass production

Westmeath inventor is gearing up to introduce his award-winning Third Arm on the global stage later this year

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Philip Dickson with his The Third Arm safety device. Photos: Anna Allen Photography

Philip Dickson with his The Third Arm safety device. Photos: Anna Allen Photography

The device won at the Tullamore Show in 2019

The device won at the Tullamore Show in 2019

Philip says 500 units of The Third Arm will be ready in October

Philip says 500 units of The Third Arm will be ready in October

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Philip Dickson with his The Third Arm safety device. Photos: Anna Allen Photography

Three years on from his success in the National Inventions Competition at the Tullamore Show, Philip Dickson is driving his farm safety device into its first run of mass production.

Philip, from Moate in Co Westmeath, impressed the judges of the Farming Independent-sponsored competition with his clever tractor safety implement, The Third Arm.

The idea for the invention came to Philip one day on his home farm. “The seed was first planted in 2017 when I saw the need to keep my ageing father safe and also for the convenience of changing implements quickly while remaining in the cab,” Philip told the Farming Independent.

The Third Arm — which took first place in the Inventions in Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry section in 2019 — fundamentally is an actuator, placed between the tractor’s lift arms and offers the operator the ability to link the tractor to an implement without having to leave the cab.

The operator attaches the third arm to the lift arms and then plugs the product into the three-pin 12V auxiliary power point in the cab.

The product removes the risk of the operator becoming crushed between the tractor and implement, while also speeding up the overall process of changing equipment.

“The Third Arm has great potential to prevent accidents on farms. Once the initial hookup between the tractor and the implement is complete, they become one and in turn it removes the danger,” Philip explained.

“The first prototype was made using an actuator off the top shoot of an old JF 900 harvester. This first model proved that my theory could work in practice.

“I decided to go with an electric product as hydraulics are too heavy and bulky. Production would have also been more complex.

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The device won at the Tullamore Show in 2019

The device won at the Tullamore Show in 2019

The device won at the Tullamore Show in 2019

“When I won in 2019 at the Tullamore Show, this gave me the indication that my invention has a place on the market.”

With help from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund, Philip has since worked with Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) who designed the plastic moulds for the Third Arm.

Just recently, Philip has taken on an investor, creator of the Boundary Blade Aidan Murphy, and together they have been able to put the Third Arm into mass production.

A software developer originally from Co Armagh but living in Dublin, Aidan designed the Boundary Blade as a small, portable, hand-held device to check the current of an electric fence while also serving as a pocket knife.

“With Aidan’s investment and experience in product development, we are able to produce an initial run of 500 units that will be ready this October,” Philip continues.

“Some of these units will be tested by retailers and distributors worldwide, by which stage we hope to scale the business. From October, if you’re quick, you will be able to purchase one from thethirdarm.com. The introductory price will be €399 including VAT.

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“I looked into the possibility of producing the Third Arm in Ireland but the costs involved are significantly higher.”

The product weighs 3.5kg and can produce 450nm of torque.

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Philip says 500 units of The Third Arm will be ready in October

Philip says 500 units of The Third Arm will be ready in October

Philip says 500 units of The Third Arm will be ready in October

Philip has worked for 15 years full time in Gearbox Repairs Bellair, based in Ballycumber, Co Offaly and all the while farms in partnership with his father John.

“We keep 55 suckler cows and run a beef system for our heifers. Bulls are sold as weanlings and all in there’d be around 180 head of cattle on the farm year round,” Philip said. “We also have a flock of 70 spring lambing ewes and the majority of those are gone to the factory by 14 weeks. We own 180ac and rent a further 50ac, all within three miles of the home farm.”

Tullamore Show

This year’s Tullamore Show, Ireland’s largest one-day agricultural show, will take place on Sunday, August 14 at the Butterfield Estate, Blueball, Co Offaly.

Competitors will take part in over 1,000 classes, with a total prize fund of €175,000.

The National Inventions Competition is sponsored by the Farming Independent, WR Shaw and Glenngorey Pumps.

Hardcopy entries are now closed, and the closing date for all online entries is tomorrow, July 6. A new category, Inventions in Renewable Energy, is sponsored by the Farming independent. See tullamoreshow.com.


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