The 87th National Ploughing Championships start today in Tullamore in Co Offaly. The three-day event is the largest outdoor event of its kind in Europe. It celebrates of all aspects of rural life in Ireland with over 1,700 exhibitors and trade stands as well as 350 ploughing competitions. But the Championships are not just for the big names of farming, with around 60 Enterprise Ireland-supported startups also exhibiting at the event.
One of those is Machine Eye, which aims to make farm machinery safe to use. Its founder Brendan Digney said the firm has global ambitions, adding that it is a completely new concept to safety - ie intelligence safety. The Machine Eye monitors the farmer's behaviour constantly, using artificial intelligence, when they are using a farm machine such as a tractor. When a farmer's actions are leading to risks, Machine Eye can take automatic control of the machine and remove the danger. The Machine Eye is retro-fitted directly into a farmer's tractor and it works completely automatically on the vehicle. Brendan Digney says the best way to imagine Machine Eye is to compare it to airbags in a car - it works automatically in the split seconds before an accident can occur. Mr Digney says his company is working hard to make sure that his product is accessible and affordable for all farmers and not just the big contractors.
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Kieran O'Connell from Extractics, which is part of DIT Hothouse, said his company mines waste like slurry for valuable materials and offers a platform separation technology. Explaining that Extractics works like a big magnet, Mr O'Connell said it can extract the special targeted proteins from organic waste. Explaining how valuable byproducts have become, he said that going back 30 years and more, whey was given away as fertiliser or to feed to pigs, but today whey is the bedrock of a multi-million euro infant and protein nutrition business. People hire out his machine and Mr O'Connell says it takes a farmer's slurry tank and gives the farmer a cheque.