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Young entrepreneur seeks to ‘freeup’ farmers

Agri-EPI Centre and Overbury Enterprises are working with a young entrepreneur and South Wales farmer’s son who has invented an innovative yet simple dial-reading tool which has the potential to save farmers significant time and money.

Tom McNamara

Tom McNamara demonstrating FreeUP

Tom McNamara’s device, called a ‘FreeUP’, can be mounted onto any kind of equipment or machinery to read and record their analogue dials, instantly making them ‘smart’.

Tom’s FreeUP is currently being tested on three farms including Overbury, which participates in Agri-EPI’s Satellite Farm programme. Tom has established his own company to develop and sell the FreeUP, and he is on the hunt for additional farms willing to take part in trials of the device.

Tom’s simple invention can read the value on any dial, as frequently as needed. Readings are recorded on a webpage and, if they move outside the parameters set by the operator, they will be notified via text message.

The ability to review the data gathered over time supports better informed decision-making. The data can also be exported for use in any other software.

Tom, who is also an academic researcher in farmer-led innovation, explained:

“It is not realistic for most farmers to replace their expensive analogue equipment with digitised versions. The FreeUP offers the solution by making any piece of equipment with a traditional dial ‘smart’. It doesn’t matter what the dial measures, when it was built, what brand it is – the FreeUP will automate it.”

After discussing the device with Agri-EPI Centre, Tom was invited to trial his FreeUP at Overbury Enterprises, where it is mounted on the water irrigation system. The FreeUP is also being trialled at Stackpole Farm in Pembrokeshire for monitoring water pressure in a bore pump and Cheshire’s Reaseheath College where it is being put to various uses in the milking parlour.

Overbury Farm Manager Jake Freestone said:

“Whilst irrigating, we use the FreeUP to monitor water pressure on the irrigation reel which alerts us to significant changes in pressure, allowing us to react quickly to any problems. We are now looking at other applications across the farm and estate.”

Agri-EPI’s Head of Farm Network, Gavin Dick said:

“We are keen to help Tom develop the FreeUP because it fits perfectly with our aim of helping farmers to gather and understand data simply and cost-effectively. It supports good decision making to help improve efficiency, productivity and profitability.”

Tom’s goals are to go on developing his FreeUP by trialling new farm applications, increasing the type of data it can gather and, of course, increasing sales. His overall ambition is to produce a suite of ‘FreeUP’ products in response to needs identified by farmers which automate tasks using simple and affordable equipment that ‘just works’.

Any farms interested in trialling the FreeUP can email Tom at or, for further information, visit www.freeup.world.

FreeUP

Visit creates fertile ground for growth of UK-China Smart Farm project

New opportunities arising from the UK-China SmartFarm collaboration were the subject of fruitful discussion at Agri-EPI Centre’s Northern Hub in Edinburgh today (18.12.19).

Agri-EPI hosted a visit by a high-level delegation from the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, along with representatives of Innovate UK, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the University of Strathclyde.  The purpose was to explore Smart Farm opportunities with the Tianjin Municipal Commission of Agricultural and Rural Affairs and Tianjin Food Group.

Agri-EPI is helping to realise Innovate UK’s SmartFarm concept to develop a holistic approach to the food supply chain for a more efficient and sustainable approach to farming and food production. SmartFarm is a key component of the Agri-Tech Flagship Challenge, one of the major deliverables under the UK-China Science Technology and Innovation Strategy signed in December 2017 in London.

With the Agri-EPI-led pilot ‘SmartFarm 1.0’ already well underway in China, the plan is to create a transferable model for utilising a range of technology to gather data on inputs and outputs, in order to measure and reduce variation and increase productivity at all levels of the supply chain.

Agri-EPI Centre has been working closely with a variety of Chinese and UK partners to deliver SmartFarm 1.0. The project has now come to the attention of officials in Tianjin, who wish to explore how the project’s activities and positive impact may be extended to their region.

The delegation comprised senior representatives from the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Commission of the Tianjin Municipal Government, Tianjin Food Group Company, Tianjin Jinhai Husbandry Group and Tianjin High Quality Agricultural R&D Demonstration Centre.

Ian Cox, Innovate UK’s Innovation Lead for the Agri-Tech Centres said: “The China SmartFarm project is looking at how Chinese food production can utilise UK technologies to improve efficiency and reduce its environmental impact. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to discuss how we can build on current activities to further support sustainable food production in China.”

Dave Ross, Agri-EPI Chief Executive said: “It has been a pleasure to discuss further SmartFarm opportunities and we thank the delegation from Tianjin for their interest in Agri-EPI and the current activities in China. We have already developed exciting collaborations with several Chinese partners and are keen to build on existing relationships to extend the reach of the China SmartFarm initiative.”

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