Monitoring the levels of feed in silos on Irish farms is generally done by visual inspection or by estimation.
As a result, data shows that the average dairy farm runs out of feed three times a year.
This isn’t unique to Ireland. There are some 7.5m silos around the world used for a variety of purposes such as feed, biomass and aggregate storage.
However, just 0.03% of these are monitored and the majority of those use outdated load-cell technology.
However, based in Oldcastle, Co Meath, Irish company LvLogics has developed an innovative new sensor system which can be used on existing silos and give accurate, up-to-date information on silo levels from a mobile phone.
The product recently picked up the agri-technology award at this year’s Innovation Arena.
LvLogics was founded in 2018 by Barry and Eileen Finnegan after spotting a gap in the market for silo sensor technology. Barry, an electronic engineer, has extensive experience in level and sensor technology from a career in the oil business, while Eileen is a chartered accountant.
The Irish Farmers Journal recently caught up with the pair. While sensor technology isn’t new, its use inside silos is. Due to the dusty environment inside silos, traditional sensors can’t accurately take readings.
However, the company has developed a new system which detects when a sensor lens is dusty and creates a unique vortex of compressed air to lift and clear the dust, allowing readings to be taken.
Development on a new sensor solution began in 2018 and they trialled various versions on a local pig farm.
In early development stages, the company availed of two Enterprise Ireland innovation vouchers and worked with design company Boxclever on a new design of jet which could remove dust from a sensor lens. From there, they started to work with Tallaght IT (now TU Dublin) to further refine the jet until they came up with an innovative design which could consistently create a vortex air pattern to remove the dust.
“Over the seven or eight 3D printed versions it took to develop this, we learned a huge amount about hurricanes and tornadoes on a micro scale,” joked Barry.
Once the new jet was designed and subsequently patented, they worked with engineering company Taoglas to develop the hardware and cloud software and produce the finished product.
Investments from Navus Ventures, a venture capital wing of Lely and Norbert and Brendan McDermott were pivotal in commercialising the product, they said. At the time of writing this article, LvLogics was just approved as an Enterprise Ireland high potential startup company.
A key growth market for LVLogics is its collaboration model with mills. Barry explained that mills are starting to partially fund the installation of their system on the farms which they supply feed to.
The farmer shares their information with the mill which allows the mill to coordinate feed deliveries in a more efficient manner. For example, feed deliveries in a region can be managed and grouped together to reduce one off deliveries, time and fuel. Dairygold, for example, will have nearly 100 farms with this system installed by the end of the year.
The business is working with a number of mills and companies in Ireland and further afield.
It has just started working with Fonterra milk suppliers in New Zealand.
The system is also available to purchase directly from €1,100 plus VAT, as well as an annual subscription. Currently, the company is trading in 12 countries and hopes to have 10,000 units sold within the next three years.