Those heading to Fieldays on June 13-16 at Mystery Creek will get a chance to see the future of farming first-hand– from grassroots innovations through to the larger, international innovations.
Entries to the 2018 National Agricultural Fieldays Innovation Awards closed on May 1 – and agricultural inventors and innovators have lined up to showcase their inventions across several industry areas.
There will be sections for dairy and drystock farming, horticulture, information and communication technology, cloud and mobile-based software, animal health and genetics, water and waste management, environment and clean-tech, animal and farm management, farm safety and leading research.
And with this year marking Fieldays’ 50th year of showcasing agriculture and innovation to rural and urban audiences - the 2018 theme is the “Future of Farming”, with visitors and exhibitors being encouraged to start discussions around what the future of farming means to them.
Fieldays Innovations event manager Gail Hendricks says her team love seeing how widespread entries are, and have always encouraged the small, grassroots entries just as much as the bigger, more established ones. “Even though an entry might be ‘small’, it can still make a big impact.”
Gail says the entries are housed in Fieldays’ popular Innovations Centre, with entrants able to access free advice from lawyers, patent and trademark attorneys, accountants and product development consultants.
And the Fieldays’ theme – the ‘Future of Farming’ – ties in perfectly with the forward-looking Innovation Awards.
“Originally, the Fieldays Innovation Awards were about widgets, gadgets and devices to improve farming, but more and more we’re seeing entries that play to the agri-tech factor and really take into account how science and technology continues to advance agriculture.”
Awards judge Nigel Slaughter, CEO of Hamilton molecular extraction company Ligar, says the judges aren’t necessarily looking for the most-clever, hi-tech of inventions.
“We’re looking for entries that show they’re ahead of the curve, have seen a gap in the market and shown that their product is useful for its intended audience,” says Nigel.
“We want to see the thought processes behind the innovation. Have they seen where their product is going to be useful? Is it going to save the user time or money? Have they taken into account the feedback they received during trials?
“Sometimes innovators spend a good deal of time explaining their own thought processes in getting a new product off the ground; and while that’s an important part of the journey, we want to see how they’ve engaged with their audience and incorporated their users’ feedback into their final prototype.”
Nigel points to the winner of the 2016 international innovation and agribusiness category, Fraser Smith and Matt Yallop’s heat detection device FlashMate, as a good example of a product that had its end user in mind.
“Fraser and Matt spent a lot of time with farmers to get their product right, and they made sure to show that in their entry.”
FlashMate is a small plastic dome housing touchscreen electronics that accurately detects the activity associated in cows that are in heat and ready for insemination, with a flashing red light signalling to the farmer it’s ready for insemination.
Fraser says he and Matt trialled FlashMate on several farms in NZ, mucking in with farmers to get a full understanding of one of the huge challenges they face – knowing exactly when a cow is in heat.
“Detecting heat is the single biggest controllable factor that makes the biggest impact on farm profitability,” says Fraser.
“DairyNZ have said that even a small lift in detection rates of 15 per cent would add an extra $300 million to New Zealand’s GDP, so there was a big economic factor at play in developing this product.”
Since winning the innovation award, Fraser and Matt have taken FlashMate to the world. It’s currently sold in Australia, Ireland, the UK, South Africa and South East Asia, with more enquiries coming in from around the world. Fraser is currently overseas instigating research projects with the University of Cambridge in the UK and Teagasc, Ireland’s agriculture and food development authority.
“The Fieldays Innovation Awards gave us instant international recognitions,” says Fraser. “Being able to say that FlashMate had just won the supreme award for innovation at the National Agricultural Fieldays was a great way to get international conversations started on the commercial front.”
Innovation Awards entrants have access to business advisors, legal experts and product development consultants at a dedicated space in the Innovations Centre called The LAB, powered by Locus Research. In addition, they have a chance to meet with potential investors at an invite-only evening hosted by Enterprise Angel – Fieldays Innovations Capital.