Denim-clad inventors from all around Australia will be pitching their agtech ideas to a panel of farmers in Wagga as part of a brand new networking event.
Startup Network will be held on July 20 by Agrifutures Australia, which will be bringing in nine startups from around the country to pitch their inventions to local growers, investors, and industry experts.
Self-taught inventor Nick Seymour will be floating his idea for the "Water Rat", a buoyant device that can measure how much water remains in a drinking trough.
Mr Seymour said the idea came to him as a bolt from the blue one night as he lay awake worrying about whether his cows were feeling thirsty.
"For the last few years I've been living in Melbourne but managing a beef cattle property up in Hamilton. It's my dad's property but he's in his 80s, so I've been going back and forth," Mr Seymour said.
"I was lying in bed at night not being able to sleep wondering if the cattle had any water in the summer, so I had to come up with a monitor the water."
He began tinkering around with different methods to measure the levels in his cow troughs, teaching himself the basics of engineering through books and YouTube tutorials.
The amateur inventor first tried to affix a sensor to the side of the trough, but it kept being knocked off by over-enthusiastic bulls.
He kept running into that brick wall until one day an off-hand comment gave him the inspiration for the Water Rat - a device that floats on the surface of the water.
"My brother in law said 'Hey Nick, it'd be so much better if you could throw it in the water and walk away'. I woke up the next morning and thought: 'my god, he's right'," Mr Seymour said.
"You just have to learn to push through a lot of failures. It's really only by making and experimenting that you accelerate your learning by failing and tying again."
Stewart McConachy is another inventor who will coming to Wagga to pitch his invention iTRAK, a device that scans the eyes of cows in order to verify their identity.
Currently farmers use tags to identify their cows, however they often break and can be removed by cow thieves.
The technology is still in the testing stages, however Mr McConachy said he dreams of the day when farmers all over Australia will use the retinal scans to keep track of their herds.
"If every farmer scanned all of their animals near birth, all of a sudden they have the gold standard of identification. If they ever lose a tag or if someone tries to steal an animal, all you need to do is scan the animal's retina to validate their identity," Mr McConachy said.
"We've been doing our own trials and we know it works. We're now working with other technologies that will allow us to provide scanning at a commercial rate, so every farmer will be able to do it with our system."
He hopes to one day expand the technology so that it can track sheep, goats, pigs, and other animals.
Queenslander Jack Travers will be pitching TruckTracker, an app that tracks the location of trucks carrying livestock and shares the data in real-time with buyers and sellers along the supply chain.
Mr Travers used to work as a livestock manager at a meat factory, and he said it was a constant headache trying to keep track of all the cattle coming in from all across regional Queensland.
"Basically I just needed a better way to manage what was on the road and what wasn't on the road," Mr Travers said.
"I realised after connecting with producers and transporters that there were a whole lot of small issues everyone was putting up with that could be solved."
Mr Travers, the ideas man, teamed up with two of his technologically-minded mates, who helped him bring TruckTracker to life.
The pitching event's program manager Dallas Pearce said Wagga was fertile ground for technological innovation in the agricultural space.
The event only has three winners, but Ms Pearce said she hoped all the contestants would be able to find investors, buyers, or farmers in Wagga who would want to make use of their inventions.
"The whole plan is to connect the startups with farmers, so the judges will be farmers themselves who will see if their product will benefit them on farms, save them time, make them money, increase their yields," Ms Pearce said.
"Wagga's a really good area and It's important to get the founders to the areas where the farmers are. the are a lot of big properties around here and it would be good to see them taking the next step and using technology on their farm."
The event will be the first one of its kind in Wagga, and Ms Pearce said she hoped it would become a regular event.
AgriFutures Australia managing director John Harvey said he hoped the event would speed up technology uptake in regional areas.
"Often the people who understand technology come from other sectors with little or no links to agriculture," Mr Harvey said.
We hope The Startup Network will link these bright young people, who understand technology, up with farmers so they understand the pain points and problems their customers have that require solving."
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