Three years after its success in the National Inventions Competition at the Tullamore Show, Philip Dickson drives his farm safety device into its first mass production run.
hilip, from Moate in County Westmeath, impressed the judges of the Independent of agriculture-sponsored a competition with its smart tractor safety tool, The Third Arm.
The idea for the invention came to Philip one day on his native farm. “The seed was first planted in 2017 when I realized the need to protect my aging father and also for the convenience of quickly changing tools while still in the cabin,” Philip told the Independent of agriculture.
The third arm – which took first place in the Inventions in Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry section in 2019 – is basically an actuator, placed between the tractor’s lift arms and provides the operator with the ability to connect the tractor to an implement without having to leave the taxi.
The operator attaches the third arm to the lift arms, then plugs the product into the cab’s 3-prong 12V auxiliary power socket.
The product eliminates the risk of the operator being crushed between the tractor and the implement, while speeding up the overall process of changing equipment.
“The third arm has great potential to prevent accidents on farms. Once the initial connection between tractor and implement is complete, they become one and, in turn, that eliminates the danger,” Philip explained.
“The first prototype was made using an actuator on the top of an old JF 900 harvester. This first model proved that my theory could work in practice.
“I decided to opt for an electric product because the hydraulics are too heavy and cumbersome. The production would also have been more complex.
“When I won in 2019 at the Tullamore Show, it gave me an indication that my invention has a place in the market.”
With help from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund, Philip has since worked with Shannon University of Technology (TUS) who designed the plastic molds for the third arm.
Just recently, Philip hired an investor, Boundary Blade creator Aidan Murphy, and together they were able to put the third arm into mass production.
A software developer from Co Armagh but living in Dublin, Aidan designed the Boundary Blade as a small, portable device for checking the current of an electric fence while also serving as a pocket knife.
“Thanks to Aidan’s investment and experience in product development, we are able to produce an initial run of 500 units which will be ready in October,” continues Philip.
“Some of these units will be tested by retailers and distributors around the world, which is where we hope to scale the business. From October, if you’re quick, you can buy one from thethirdarm.com. The introductory price will be €399 including VAT.
“I have investigated the possibility of producing the third arm in Ireland, but the costs involved are significantly higher.”
The product weighs 3.5 kg and can produce a torque of 450 nm.
Philip worked for 15 years full time at Gearbox Repairs Bellair, based in Ballycumber, Co Offaly and all the time working on farms in partnership with his father John.
“We raise 55 suckler cows and manage a butchery system for our heifers. The bulls are sold at weaning and there would be around 180 head of cattle on the farm all year round,” Philip said. “We also have a flock of 70 ewes in spring lambing and the majority of them left for the factory at 14 weeks. We own 180 acres and lease an additional 50 acres, all within three miles of the farm.
This year’s Tullamore Show, Ireland’s largest one-day agricultural show, will take place on Sunday August 14 at Butterfield Estate, Blueball, Co Offaly.
Competitors will take part in over 1,000 classes, with a total prize pool of €175,000.
The National Inventions Competition is sponsored by the Independent of agricultureWR Shaw and Glenngorey Pumps.
Paper registrations are now closed and the closing date for all online registrations is tomorrow, July 6th. A new category, Inventions in Renewable Energy, is sponsored by the Independent of agriculture. See tullamoreshow.com.