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Freshgraze: This student has developed a cloud-controlled fence for livestock

Charlie Drumm’s project was selected as the Teagasc Special Award winner at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

County Westmeath student Charlie Drumm was the winner of the Teagasc award at BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2019.
County Westmeath student Charlie Drumm was the winner of the Teagasc award at BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2019.
Image: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

WHEN MOVING STRIP-grazing fences at his family’s beef farm in Delvin, Co Westmeath 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 past three years, Drumm developed the Freshgraze system – an automated cloud-controlled moving fence for livestock. 

Drumm’s project was this week selected as the Teagasc Special Award winner by judges at the 55th BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, which took place in the RDS. 

He was presented with the award by Teagasc director, Professor Gerry Boyle, at the ceremony. 

Drumm, who is a 5th year student at Coláiste Mhuire in Mullingar, was also awarded second place in the Technology Senior Individual category. 

Explaining how the system works, Drumm said: “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 grace in pre-selected areas in the field ensuring fresh grass is consumed and grazed areas have time to recover and grow.” 

Drumm had initially developed it as a labour-saving device, but he believes that the biggest gain will be improved utilisation of grass. 

The machine moves about 300 to 400 small steps throughout the day, depending on the grass allocated by the farmer, according to Drumm. 

“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,” Drumm said. 

Other wins

Drumm 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 Drumm plans to develop it further to make a highly robust and reliable solution and to ultimately commercialise the product himself. 

Dr Launce Shalloo of Teagasc said: “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.

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