Three Transition Year students from Athlone Community College have created a device that constantly monitors the voltage of an electric fence and detects and disables an electric fence should an animal become entangled in it.
Smart Electric Fence – developed by Irene Finnerty, Aoibhe Lennon and Aoife O’Neill - sends an SMS message to a farmer notifying them their fence has been disabled.
“The idea of Smart Electric Fence came to my mind as I saw first-hand lambs killed in electric fence netting on my own farm.” Irene Finnerty – who hails from a sheep and beef farm – told Catherina Cunnane - That’s Farming.
Establishing the business
The trio began their project in September 2018 as part of the 2019 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.
Irene Finnerty is the mini-company’s Leader/P.R.O., while market research is conducted by Aoibhe Lennon and Aoife O’ Neill fills the position of Financial Manager.
Their Science teacher – Ms. Roache - aided with the construction of the device and they have also received support from their parents.
“We had to determine the voltage drop when a lamb is caught in the electric netting and how long should we set the threshold before the fence is disabled”
“This information was important so our device would only disable the fence should an animal become entangled in it, not just when an animal touches off it.” They explained.
The students conducted extensive research online and in stores before commencing their project. “Our product is innovative as there is no product on the market like it; there is a product out there that can detect low voltage;”
“There is no device that detects when an animal is trapped in the electric wire and cuts the electricity to the wire before it kills the animal.”
“There is no device then sends an SMS to the farmer notifying him/her that the fence has been disabled.”
The students said all farmers surveyed showed great interest in investing in their device to incorporate in their electric fencing.
“Our product is mainly aimed at the likes of sheep farmers; the device is also suitable for hares and other wild animals that may get caught in the netting.”
For health and safety purposes, when displaying their project, the students simulate the pulse voltage of an electric fence with 5V instead of the 6kV of an electric fence box.
“We can assure you our device works with the 6kV electric fence too.” They said.
The market price of their design is €15 plus a further €13 if you wish to include SMS technology (total cost €28)
“We would recommend farmers or anyone using electric netting to invest in our design as it will save animal life, financial loss and extinction of endangered wildlife.”
The Athlone students have received a number of accolades for their creation including a Highly Commended Award and a Display Award at BTYSTE 2019. They were selected as one of the four national finalists in the ESB National Farming Safety Challenge.
Future PlansThe three girls are also competing in a number of other competitions including the Student Enterprise Awards Programme and they hope to enter a science competition entitled SciFest in April.
They said that while they have considered getting their idea patented, they believe in sharing their idea with a larger firm to possibly manufacture their device.
“We are thinking about selling our idea to a company and making some money that way.” The trio outlined.
“Smart Electric Fence has brought us so much enjoyment and opportunity that we do not want this incredible journey to end anytime soon!” They concluded.