New drones deployed to prevent farm investments 'going up in smoke'
The launch of the pilot scheme took place at the Crone Woods park, Co Wicklow, on Friday.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NWPS) has teamed up with Coillte to tackle forest fires using innovative drone technology.

Coillte recorded 150 fire incidents last year which affected more than 600 acres of forestry.

In order to combat this problem, the two bodies have called in the help of Ian Kiely and Keith Tracey from Drone Consultants Ireland, who will survey the fires as they happen, providing invaluable data to the various services tackling the blazes.

Pat Neville, Coillte communications manager, said: “Most forest fires in Ireland don’t start naturally. A lot of incidents occur as a result of careless lighting of barbecues, campfires and burning of land too near to a forest.

"A lot of these forests are owned by farmers. We don’t want to see these investments and hard work literally going up in smoke.”

Neville believes the drones “can be used in high-risk areas and try to spot fires early. We will be able to see the extent of them and know where to send the firefighting crews in”.

Damien Clarke, district conservation officer with the NPWS, said: “The pilot scheme will be rolled out for Coillte forests initially but in future we hope to use these drones on all land as fires can easily spread from forest to forest regardless of ownership.”

Farmers are reminded that burning vegetation on land that is not cultivated is prohibited between 1 March and 31 August.

An orange fire warning is in place until Sunday 19 May.

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Taoiseach ‘cannot rule out’ general election
Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin have both addressed the issue of a general election as counting in the local and European elections continues.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, when questioned by RTÉ on Sunday evening, said he could not rule out a general election, but he would not be seeking to dissolve the Dáil in the next few days or weeks.

He cited the need to have a stable government in light of Brexit, which he said would continue for a long time, as well as the autumn budget and potentially by-elections at the same time.

While the Taoiseach said that “others could pull the plug on the Government”, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin indicated that his party would continued with the current confidence and supply agreement.

He said it was prepared to “work constructively in terms of framing a Budget because of the prospect of a no-deal Brexit".

Local elections

By midnight on Sunday, some 820 of the 949 seats have been filled nationwide, with Fianna Fáil taking 26.9% of first preference votes and Fine Gael taking 25.2%.

Independent candidates claimed 19.6% of first preference votes, while Sinn Fein took 9.5%, Labour took 5.8% and the Green Party took 5.6%.

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Waterford start-up VirtualVet helping farmers to track animal drug usage
Waterford firm VirtualVet is an international company that tracks drug usage in animals associated with the human food chain.

VirtualVet is one of the agricultural finalists at this year’s National Enterprise Awards, which is taking place on 29 May.

The Waterford start-up formed three years ago and now has five members of staff.

VirtualVet tracks and works to change drug usage in the food chain.

VirtualVet serves three markets:

  • Farmers who must record usage under compliance.
  • Agri-food and animal health industries.
  • Governments monitoring drug usage in the food chain.
  • Services provided

    Speaking with co-founder and managing director of VirtualVet Sinead Quealy, we learned how the company works and gathers the useful drug-usage data.

    “We provide a free service to farmers gathering information on a farm level about their drug usage on animals, which benefits them, as it covers their compliance,” Sinead said.

    “VirtualVet then gets paid for this data by other companies interested in analysing drug usage in the food chain, such as ABP.

    "Pharmaceutical companies also have recently begun requesting this data.”

    “At the moment, 100% of our work is focused on the agriculture sector, but there is potential for movement into drug usage in humans and harnessing the useful data.”

    Assessments

    On reaching the National Enterprise Awards final, Sinead said: “By arriving to this point in the competition, we have gotten the chance to make assessments of the company that we wouldn’t have done otherwise.

    "By preparing ourselves for judging and presentation to the external public, we have been able to make significant improvements to the company.”

    VirtualVet was the winners of this year’s Waterford Local Enterprise Awards and is hoping for success on the national stage this year.

    Awards

    The National Enterprise Awards celebrate small businesses from across the country, focusing on start-ups, innovation and exports, with the finals taking place on 29 May at the Mansion House, Dublin.

    There is over €40,000 in prizes to be won, with the overall winner taking home €10,000.

    Terra NutriTech was last year’s winners, an ag-tech company that specialises in precision liquid supplementation for livestock.

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    Win a tractor for a tenner in charity raffle
    Farmers and machinery enthusiasts have until September to buy raffle tickets to be in with a chance of winning a tractor.

    A 1982 Massey Ferguson 240 is being raffled off this September. The raffle is in aid of Donegal Breast Cancer Clinic and Kevin’s Kids Fund. The tickets are €10 each or three for €25.

    The recently refurbished tractor will be on display at the Inish Tractor Road Run 2019 on Sunday 2 June, which is also in aid of the two charities. The tractor run will leave Malin Head at 11am and tour the Inishowen Peninsula.

    Raffle tickets are available to win this tractor

    “We try to do it for charities that are not Government funded,” said Gary Monagle from the organising committee. “Last year, we raised €23,000.”

    Volunteers

    There are eight people on the committee and they all volunteer their time to organise the tractor run and refurbish the tractor that is being raffled off.

    “A right bit of work has been done on the tractor. There are 2,500 hours on it and it’s from England.

    "All the agricultural shops around the area helped us out by donating paint or whatever we needed,” Monagle said.

    If you want to get involved in the tractor run or buy raffle tickets, you can visit the Facebook page.

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