EAR tag data for Victoria’s recently mandated sheep and goat electronic identification system could soon be captured by a paddock trough.
The AgMesh start-up, founded by Peter Higgins and Cormac Dolen, has won the Sheep and Wool Innovation Award at the Sheepvention Inventions competition for their Smart Trough.
The base technology being used now is a sensor device which can be fitted to animal troughs and sends alerts when water levels drop to critical levels, or when temperature and humidity reach certain levels in the paddock.
By November, the device will be able to read electronic identification (EID) ear tags and weigh animals as they use the trough.
“I did grow up on sheep farm, and having seen crisis events because of a blocked trough and no one realised for a day or two…that was the instigation,” Pete Higgins said.
“Sheep and beef farming, and livestock farming in general, has lagged right behind in areas and I could see someone needed to be spending time and effort doing this stuff.
“With commodity prices lifting up and up farmers are starting to take a look and see if they can get that extra percentage out of their flocks…we could see an opening.”
Mr Higgins is a mechatronic engineer originally from Lake Bolac who had the idea a few years ago. Melbourne software guru Cormac Dolen teamed up with him in April, after which they received seed funding to fast-track the Smart Trough.
Mr Higgins said they were different to other start-ups just trying to make the “next big” stock management app, as they could deliver both the software and the hardware.
“We figure we could do the same app as everyone else, but because we actually have the background in sensing devices, we can actually bring the hardware and a bit of value back to the farmer,” he said.
Mr Dolen said currently it was a “dark paddock”, with not a lot of data being captured in any way shape or form.
“Smart Trough allows us to capture that data, transfer it into useful information for the farmer – taking a physical object that is sitting out there doing a function on a daily basis.
“We are making it smart and drawing insights from it, at a cost effective point – digitising the paddock,” he said.
The overall inventions award went to repeat winner Rod Davidson of Davidson Engineering at Casterton.
Davo’s Fencing Clip – a wire clip used in conjunction with a tech screw to attach wire to wooden posts – came about because Mr Davidson’s family were fed up with traditional staples.
“My wife and son were out hammering in staples at home and they got sick of that, so they came home and said Rod you have to invent a clip or something we can tech screw the wires on with,” Mr Davidson said.
“So I had a fiddle around about 12 months ago and now they are nearly ready for commercial production.
“I have used them at home and had about 10 people who have trialled them,” he said.
“The advantage is in a hardwood post you can get the screw in quite easily and they don’t pull out as easily as a staple.”