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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

ISCF Transforming Food Production

What is ISCF?

The ISCF Transforming Food Production programme has been set up to drive the UK’s agriculture and food production towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040, in line with the NFU’s target for the sector.

Funding opportunities:

Future Food Production Systems

> Open date: 17 September 2019

> Closing date: 22 January 2020

What is available?

£20 million

What projects will be considered?

  • Large scale, high impact projects that are truly transformative in nature, and that rethink the production system
  • Novel, scalable and high value production systems
  • Data-driven solutions that drive productivity, whilst also achieving net zero carbon emissions
  • Aquaculture, indoor/ controlled environment farming systems and novel food sources
  • Radically transformative proposals that target more traditional agriculture sectors
  • Projects worth £1 million – £10 million

Find out more and apply here.

Science and Technology into Practice

Dates to be confirmed.

What is available?

£30 million

What projects will be considered?

  • Strengthen links between research and industry
  • Demonstrate near-market technologies at scale in a commercial environment
  • Integrate technologies into systems
  • Show both technical feasibility and economic viability
  • Contribute towards driving productivity and low emissions

Bilateral funding opportunities: joint funding call for the UK and China

> Open date: 14 October 2019

> Closing date: 23 January 2020

What is available?

£500,000 per project

What projects will be considered?

  • Drive productivity while also driving low emissions production including:
        • Remote sensing for decision making
        • Smart pasture production
        • Precision technologies for indoor or controlled environment agriculture
        • Systems exploiting big data
        • Robotic systems

Please note: UK-based activity must target UK agriculture, as well as export opportunities

Find out more here

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