Padraig and Michael win big at ploughing for farm safety project

Two bright young minds from St Michael's College were celebrated at the National Ploughing Championships this week as an initiative they devised to make farms safer took one of the top prizes in competition off the ploughing fields.

St Michael's College is justifiably hugely proud of the achievements of its students Pádraig Hunt and Michael Murphy, who were responsible for some fantastic thinking-outside-the-box as they pondered one of the big perennial questions in agriculture: how can you make the farm environment, containing as it does so much heavy, intricate machinery, open pits and large animals safer for farmers and their families?

Pádraig and Michael came up with an idea many twice their age might wait a long time to experience and it's an idea that is now hoped can actually be rolled out to farms. Like all great ideas, it's pretty simple (which we can all see in hindsight, but it took the lads to conceive it): create a map that shows where the most hazardous threats exist on the farm.

That's not doing full justice to Pádraig and Michael's new concept as the maps they create provide a colour-coded guide to their farm highlighting the danger zones in order to help the farmer avoid death or serious injury on the farm; with the zones coloured depending on the level of danger that exists.

Some farmers might baulk at the suggestion they need a map to the land they've worked for decades; but that's not what is involved here rather the lads' mapping can serve as a crucial reminder to farmers at all times of where the greatest dangers on their farms lie. Think flaring red around the slurry pit and you'll likely lose sight of it much slower even when running around in the midst of so many jobs at peak times.

It was judged such a good idea that it won out the ESB Networks/Irish Farmers Journal Safe Family Farm competition in a major recognition of the students' smarts and of the school. Teacher Fiona Griffin was delighted to accompany the young men to Tullamore for the awards where none other than Agriculture Minister and Cork native Michael Creed presented them with their trophies.

"I wish to congratulate my neighbours in St Michael's Listowel - students Padraig and Michael, and teacher Fiona - for emerging national winners," the Minister said. The boys meanwhile got a GoPro camera each for their labours.