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Young Scientist winners ensure farm safety is in safe hands

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All it takes is one great idea. For two third-year students at Colaiste Chraobh Abhann in Wicklow, that great idea bagged them the ABP Food Group Farm Safety Award at the 2018 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, writes Bernie Commins.

Coming from farming backgrounds and inspired by the experiences of family and friends in their farming community, Alexander Brady and Jack Brady decided to focus their BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) project on farm safety. The young inventors, currently studying for their Junior Certificate, designed and manufactured a safety device for livestock trailers to help prevent injuries occurring while loading livestock. This ‘anti kick-back device' is described as ‘helping to make the loading process much safer for livestock handlers’.

Twenty-four people were killed on Irish farms in 2017, marking the eighth consecutive year that agriculture recorded the highest number of work-related fatalities. Operating machinery is an occupational hazard for farmers, and 14 of the 2017 farm fatalities were as a result of tractor and farming vehicle accidents. Innovative farm safety-enhancing devices, similar to that created by Jack and Alexander, have an important part to play in Ireland’s farm-safety culture change.

Alexander and Jack explain that, in the event of an animal kicking or pushing against the gate on a livestock trailer as they are being loaded, their device will prevent the gate from swinging back in a manner that could seriously injure the farmer.

“Our design concept consists of ratchet teeth facing in an upwards position which are welded to a flat sheet of metal,” the students explain.

“There will be a bar connected to the main gate with a simple mechanism allowing the bar to be lifted up and down. As the gate is being closed, the bar will move over and drop through the ratchet teeth allowing it to move one way but not the other way. This means that if a cow kicks or pushes on the gate during the loading process then our device will take the force of the livestock and the farmer should be unharmed. The device will also prevent the farmer being trampled by livestock trying to escape. When the gates are being opened the farmer will lift the bar upwards, which will allow the gate to open freely.”

This device will be fitted inside a box which will sit in the lower air vent of the trailer; it will not add any more width to the trailer and it won’t affect the livestock being transported inside, according to Jack and Alexander.

Colaiste Chraobh Abhann principal, Shane Eivers, said that he and the entire school were thrilled with the students’ achievements and praised the input of Julie Corrigan, teacher of agricultural science and biology at the school, for her support of Jack and Alexander and the project.

Mr Eivers said that the concept came from the students’ experiences and from those of their family and neighbours, some of whom had experienced farm accidents.

“The idea was a very simple one, but very inventive and they have actually produced something that, in the long-term, can help keep farmers safe,” said Mr Eivers. 

Since their win, Jack and Alexander have patented their award-winning device, according to Mr Eivers. So, watch this space!

Tags: agri-science livestock BTYSTE 2018