Freshgraze – Westmeath student Charlie Drumm wins the Teagasc award at BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2019
The Freshgraze device means the cows never get a chance to walk on the fresh grass but will always have fresh grass available. The grass allocated can easily be changed by the farmer at any time during the day from their smartphone
When moving strip-grazing fences at his family’s beef farm in Delvin, Co Westmeath continually kept Charlie Drumm late for football training, he didn’t get annoyed about it; instead, he decided to design a solution to his problem. Over the next three years, Charlie developed the Freshgraze system – an automated cloud-controlled moving fence for livestock.
The project was selected as the Teagasc Special Award winner by judges at the 55th BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) 2019, which took place in the RDS during January 10-12. He was presented with the award by Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle at the ceremony. Charlie was also awarded 2nd place in the Technology Senior Individual category.
Charlie, who is a 5th year student at Coláiste Mhuire, Mullingar explains how it works: “Using commercially available tumble wheels, I developed an automated moving fence system that allocated fresh grass to grazing animals on a continual basis using two robots on either side of a field that are controlled by a cloud-based user interface to allow for high accuracy grassland management. The robots run along high tensile wire and are connected to each other across the field via a length of electric fencing wire. As the motor units move along the wire it will encourage cattle to graze in pre-selected areas in the field ensuring fresh grass is consumed and grazed areas have time to recover and grow.”
Charlie initially developed it as a labour-saving device but believes that the biggest gain will be improved utilisation of grass: “The machine moves about 300-400 small steps throughout the day - depending on the grass allocated by the farmer. The cows never get a chance to walk on the fresh grass but will always have fresh grass available. The grass allocated can easily be changed by the farmer at any time during the day from their smartphone”.
Charlie is no stranger to winning awards. He also won the Ag-tech Startup award and overall winner of the Alfie Cox perpetual for the best start-up innovation at Ploughing 2018 and has received innovation vouchers from Enterprise Ireland. The Freshgraze device is now patent protected and Charlie’s plans are to develop it further to make a highly robust and reliable solution and to ultimately commercialise the product himself. According to Dr Laurence Shalloo, Teagasc, Moorepark: “We have met with Charlie on a number of occasions and are very excited about the concept of what he has developed”.
The Teagasc special award is presented to the project that best demonstrates a thorough understanding of the science of agricultural or food production, or the use of science to improve technologies available to agricultural or food production.
Teagasc volunteers kept visitors to the stand entertained with hands-on experiments throughout the event.