Thursday, 11 November 2021 09:55

It's not always the luck of the Irish

Written by  Mark Daniel
The Terra range of fertilisers induces signalling to the crop to take up more of the 70% of applied nitrogen that is normally unavailable to the crop in traditional fertilisers. The Terra range of fertilisers induces signalling to the crop to take up more of the 70% of applied nitrogen that is normally unavailable to the crop in traditional fertilisers.

While the annual Irish Ploughing Championships (The Ploughing), normally held in September, has been cancelled for the second time because of Covid, one key aspect of the event  - innovation awards - has taken place remotely.

Featuring a wide range of entries and unique ideas, often by hands-on farmers seeking solutions for day to day problems, as usual the imagination and solutions and development offered some real benefits.

Brandon Bioscience took out the overall 2021 Innovation Award for its work centred around the efficient use of nitrogen fertiliser. That work involved creating a granular, mineral-based nitrogenous fertilsers coated with the PSI 362, precision engineered, seaweed-derived (Ascophyllum nodosum) biomolecules to allow more efficient use of N by crops, with yields maintained, despite using up to 25% less fertiliser.

Centred around plant bio-stimulation, with the industry predicted to grow to €8 billion by 2027, the Terra range of fertilisers induces signalling to the crop to take up more of 70% of applied nitrogen that is normally unavailable to the crop in traditional fertilisers.

Extensively tested over the last five years, in grass and arable crops, the product was launched to the Irish market in 2021, with the intention to develop sales in Europe and beyond, featuring the incorporation of PSI 362 technology to enable a 20% reduction of nitrogen fertiliser usage across all sectors of agriculture.

Moving to a more practical idea, the Crush Mate is a unique handling device designed to restrict the sideways movement of smaller breeds or younger animals in traditional crush or race-based handling systems. Typically used for procedures such as freeze branding, insemination or drenching, Crush Mate is also said to be beneficial to introducing young heifers to the practical use of robotic milking systems.

Mounted on the left or right side of a crush or race, the overall width can be adjusted to suit the size of the animal, helping to keep procedures safe, while also saving time by stopping an animal from fidgeting. The brainchild of dairy farmer Seamus Dunne and developed over a 10-year period with numerous prototypes, the device successfully took out the On-Farm Innovation Award-Alfie Cox Founders Perpetual Trophy. (www.crushmate. ie)

At the other end of the spectrum, the winner of the UCD Lyons Agritech Award, Fodder Box, with the dimensions of an oversized shipping container is said to be the equivalent of 40 acres of land, which can grow around 1 tonne of fresh fodder daily. Hydro Fodder is said to replace grain feed at a ratio of 2:1, so 2 tons of Hydro Fodder replaces 1 ton of grain feed, representing a significant yearly cost saving.

At an estimated cost of €60,000, and requiring just seed, water and electricity, with a commitment of one hours labour a day for harvesting, cleaning and re-seeding, the hydroponic fodder system is said to deliver many benefits. These include better digestive efficiency, reduced production of methane and ammonia, alongside increased weight gains, immunity and fertility in ruminants and mon-gastric animals. On the environmental front, the system helps to conserve land, does away with the need to use fertiliser and any potential leaching, while also helping to protect water quality.

Fodder Box uses a drip and spray irrigation system, UV water filtration and a proprietary LED lighting system, with typical running costs of only €5 per day.

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