Ploughing Championships 2016: The year of innovation

Our technology correspondent looks at the presence of the agri-tech sector in Offaly

The National Ploughing Championships, 2016 are well underway here in Offally. Yesterday saw the highest number of attendees in the history of the annual event with some 100,000 people walking the fields of Screggan.

The atmosphere at the Ploughing Champsionships never fails to amaze me. As someone from a non-farming background, I will never forget my first time walking through the rows and rows of stands back in 2008. There is something for every type of farmer. 

The entire exhibition is set across an 800-acre site. Some 1,700 exhibitors are taking part making it Europe’s largest outdoor exhibition.

While I've been here many times at this stage, I've never experienced the sense of innovation that's palpable on site this year. As I walked by the large exhibitions for Farmers Journal, the IFA and Fine Gael, one plot caught my eye; the Innovation Arena. 

This is a space that hosts some brilliant innovators who are brining technology into the agri-space. I stopped by to talk with Padraig Mulvey, Senior Technical Sales Manager with PE Services. He showed me one of their products that is making waves in the world of poultry farming.

"We supply the control element into the poultry section, so that's the feeding, the heating, the lighting, ventilation, water and all other necessary elements needed to grow chickens and produce eggs," explained Mulvey. "The Image II controls everything for a farmer, it's a full management computer that is internet accessible and programmable. It helps a farmer modernise their poultry production. It's helps save time but also saves the information in one centralised place. The accuracy from this helps the farmer get more from his or her chickens."

Another company that is changing how farming looks is DairyMaster. 

Based in Kerry, this firm hosts all research, development and manufacturing on their 11 acre site. Company CEO, Dr Edmund Harty, has led a team of more than 300 to build technology that can aid diary farmers. Their machines can monitor individual cattle and tell the farmers all they need to know the mind their herd and get the most from them. 

As one farmer put it to me this morning, we've come a long way from the plough and the shovel.

We'll have more from the National Ploughing Championships throughout the week. The event runs until tomorrow, September 22nd.