- Winner – Rod Cowlin’s OSR drill
- Runner-up – Phil Manford’s ABS trailer brakes
- Winner – Simon Walter’s cultivator
- Runner-up – Carl Studley’s straw spreader
- Winner – Cyril Patterson’s fencing system
- Runner-up – Meredith George’s grain dryer
This year’s Farm Inventions competition goes to show once more that farming minds are some of the most ingenious around.
We had a huge number of entries and inventions for the competition, covering a diverse range of farming equipment useful for livestock and arable farmers.
See also: 20 of the best farm inventions
See the winners and the runners up for the main categories below and also a selection of some of the best ideas that didn’t quite scoop the top spot.
The categories fall into three categories: simple, intermediate and complex.
The complex category covers those impressive inventions that have taken days, weeks or even years to design and build.
Intermediate ones involve a bit more time and thought.
Simple machines are those that took a day or so to knock together.
Regardless of category, we think you’ll agree that all the ideas have in common, innovation, imagination and the ability to solve some tricky issues.
Winner: Rod Cowlin’s OSR drill
Suffolk farmworker Rod Cowlin is the winner of this year’s complex category, with his impressive-looking one-pass oilseed rape drill.
The 6m machine was based around a frame from an old Lely Cultiterra and Mr Cowlin added a set of low-disturbance Simba legs, a Horsch tyre packer and a set of Weaving double-disc coulters.
Triple KRM metering units were then added on the top of the chassis so that he can apply fertiliser, plant seeds and add a dose of slug pellets in just one pass.
Runner-up: Phil Manford’s ABS trailer brakes
Shropshire farmer Phil Manford invented a clever box of tricks that allows tractors to control ABS air-braking systems on commercial trailers.
He came up with the idea after he bought an old lorry flatbed and realised it was virtually unusable when hooked to the tractor’s air supply – as soon as he jabbed the brakes it would lock all six wheels.
After many hours spent with electronic components, wires and a soldering iron, he came up with a system that acted like the ABS controller on a lorry.
Now the trailer comes to a smooth and controlled stop whether it is empty or fully loaded.
Best of the rest
Henry Bodman’s multiuse trailer
Wiltshire farmer Henry Bodman built this clever multiuse trailer for moving hay, straw, silage and machinery.
Other than the axles – which came off a 40ft artic trailer – and the fifth-wheel plate, he fabricated the whole outfit himself.
That meant creating a chassis out of two lengths of hefty box section, building a dolly and coming up with a design for lowering the rear ramp section of the trailer.
This is powered by a large hydraulic ram sourced from a dealer’s scrap bin and is operated by two spool valves tucked away in the toolbox.
One spool lifts the ramp off a latch system and the other lowers it to the ground. It cost about £8,000 to build.
Brian Wellstead’s static tractor
Brian Wellstead decided to rig up his own diesel engine to save committing one of his tractors to running the grain dryer all summer.
A worn-out backhoe loader was volunteered as the donor, so he pulled the 75hp Perkins 4236 block from the framework.
He decided to take the gearbox as well because, with a bit of modification, it could be used to reduce shaft speed to suit the dryer’s 540-speed pto.
The total build cost came to a princely £700.
Richard Darling’s slug pellet and Avadex applicator
To streamline the jobs of spreading slug pellets and applying Avadex granules during Autumn, Bedfordshire farmer and contractor Richard Darling built a machine that could do both.
He based the design around a Horstine Twin Air applicator. It is fitted to a demount frame, which means it can be carried either on its own trailer or mounted on the frame of a set of 12m rolls.
When it is fitted to the trailer it is towed by the farm’s John Deere Gator, so Mr Darling had to find a source of power to run it.
He bought a two-cylinder, 30hp Kohler diesel engine, which provides more than enough muscle to run the applicator’s hydraulic pump, fan and feed rollers.
In total it cost £3,000 to build.
Peter Vance’s static tractor
To stop his tractors clocking up hundreds of hours on menial static pto work, Dumfries and Galloway farmer Peter Vance set about building a standalone powerplant.
He took a 160hp six-cylinder Perkins from combine breaker John Manners, hooked it to a Lancing marine gearbox and bolted the whole lot on a chassis built from metal already on the farm.
A fixed three-point linkage was also added on the back, making it simple to lift different implements on and off with the loader.
The project took shape over six months and the total cost was about £6,500.
Winner: Simon Walter’s subsoiler/power harrow combination
Simon Walter mashed together a home-built subsoiler and Amazone power harrow in a bid to find something that would loosen-up his tough Hayling Island soils.
He uses the 3m-wide rig as a one-pass cultivator a couple of weeks ahead of the Lemken Solitair drill for getting wheat and OSR in the ground.
A short pto takes power from the tractor to a mounting at the front of the subsoiler, where it meets a 50mm shaft to take the drive back to the power harrow.
The total build cost came to about £3,500, which included £110 each for the APM-sourced subsoiler legs. There are nine of them in total, split across two rows.
Runner-up: Carl Studley’s straw spreader
Fed up with unrolling round straw bales by hand, Cheshire farmer Carl Studley decided to head for the workshop in search of a solution.
He took an old Econ bale unwinder that had already been modified to fit on the front of his Sanderson TL6 telehandler and added a hydraulic-driven tine rotor on the front to spread the straw.
Almost all parts were scavenged from machines found lying round the farm and the only expense was £38 on a couple of bearings.
Best of the rest
Peter Harris’ silage pusher
Forking-up nosed-out feed was a full-time occupation at Peter Harris’ 230ha Cornish farm before he came up with his home-made silage pusher.
The simple system fits to the front end of the farm’s Ford 2120 and was knocked together using a mishmash of parts destined for the scrap bin.
In fact, the only build bits that cost any money were the welding rods and gate eyes that provide the ram pivot. In total it took about 10 hours to put together.
Mr Harris reckons the silage is now pushed under the cows’ noses far more frequently, which has increased daily intake for the 500 beef and dairy cows.
Tim Fogden’s grassland aerator
Tim Fogden from Bury St Edmunds has been busy in the workshop with two entries into this year’s Farm Inventions competition.
The first is an aerator designed to fit to the tail end of an Agri 72 paddock topper. The design makes use of the topper’s deadweight to get the aerator tines into the ground and forms a platform for any extra weight that might be needed.
The 1.5m-wide aerator was built from a redundant roller salvaged from a Claas Rollant 85 baler and can be hinged forwards for transport, which reduces the length of the outfit on the back of his Massey Ferguson 35.
Mr Fogden’s other DIY build was a heavy-duty log splitter. The unit is mounted on a three-point linkage and two big single-acting hydraulic rams force the axe through the blocks of wood.
Johnston Cumming’s bale unwinder
To help take the tedium out of unravelling round bales, Gretna farmer Johnston Cumming fabricated his own bale unroller.
The simple machine was built using parts scavenged mainly from an old Schuitemaker forage wagon and cost less that £100.
He says it has slashed the time it takes to feed and bed out and massively reduced waste.
The machine is designed to fit on a loader and run off the tractor’s hydraulics, but he has also made a trailer for towing it behind his old Massey Ferguson 165.
Winner: Cyril Patterson’s one-man fencing system
Farmer-cum-inventor Cyril Patterson came up with this clever tool for making life easier when putting up livestock fences on his own.
The first of the Northern Irish farmer’s ideas was to come up with a system for rolling out and tensioning wire using his mini digger.
Taking two hubs and the handbrake arrangement from an old Vauxhall Vectra he fabricated a tool that could roll out either stock netting or two strands of barbed wire.
To tension the wire the handbrake is applied, which stops the hubs spinning, and he then backs up with the digger.
He has also come up with a simple laser-pen-based aid for levelling posts and a nifty system for evenly spacing them.
This uses a 50m length of bungee cord with a series of evenly spaced marks along its length. This is then stretched between the strainer posts and whatever the distance, the posts will always be evenly spaced.
Runner-up: Meredith George’s trailer dryer
Catchy harvests always have grain dryers running at their limits, but Meredith George has come up with a natty answer to the conundrum of how to increase drying capacity.
Frequent wet summers on his 140ha farm on the Pembrokeshire coast forced him to head for the workshop with a few fag packet drawings of how to dry crops in a regular grain trailer.
The removable false floor was made from sheet steel with 3mm holes dotted across it, much like you would find on the side of a mobile dryer.
A 150mm diameter, 1.25m long vertical chimney cost £20 and is held in place by four struts bolted to the base.
It takes the flow of air underneath the damp crop from an electric-motor-driven Assentoft blower, though it could equally be pto powered.
Best of the rest
Graham Band’s crop dividers
Sick of bending long-bodied crop dividers on his combine header, Warwickshire farmer Graham Band set about building his own, stumpy version.
His dividers are made from 2mm thick sheet so should bend out of shape on contact with a fallen branch long before they cause any damage to the header.
A lick of red paint makes them visible from the driver’s seat and the short design means there’s no need to remove them during transport.
Gordon Stephen’s calf catcher
Contractor Gordon Stephen manufactured his own version of a calf catcher to work more safely among his herd of Highland cows on his Aberdeenshire croft.
He uses the UTV for fencing work so the mounting brackets were already in place, and the whole frame can be fitted or removed in less than five minutes.
The front door can also be swung open from the cab, which means there’s no need to venture out into the open as you would on an ATV.
The build cost was less than £100 and took a couple of days’ pottering in the workshop.
Daniel Parr’s cattle handling system
Dehorning and AI-ing cattle away from the yard can be a palaver without the right handling system to hold them in place.
After years faffing around with loose fencing, Cambridgeshire farmer Daniel Parr decided to knock together a handling system to get the job done more efficiently wherever he was working across his 120ha of grass.
He splashed out £300 on a seven-section yoke from French firm Jourdain, then welded-up the 50x50mm box section gates either end.
At the base of the stockboard, 150x100mm steel forms the slots for the pallet forks to make it easier to lift on and off of the flatbed trailer with the farm’s tractor loader.
Jim Calcutt’s multiuse man platform
Oxfordshire farmer Jim Calcutt has come up with a multiuse, telehandler-mounted man platform to make it more affordable for smaller farmers to work safely at height.
Unlike the many single-use platforms on the market, the aptly-named Manwash doubles up as a sheep handling system and foot-bath.
It is designed to work with Pratley hurdles and there are gates on each side for letting animals in and out. There’s also a handy shelf for worming, tagging and drenching kit.
Rob Gash’s weed wiper
Serial inventor Rob Gash has been back in the farm workshop to build a weed wiper designed to douse standing blackgrass plants with a generous coating of glyphosate.
The home-brewed wiper fits to the front of the farm’s Polaris Sportsman and was assembled almost entirely from bits and bobs lying round the yard.
Mr Gash already had the 90-litre tank and electric pump, which feeds chemical to a hole-ridden blue plastic waterpipe that runs the length of the 4m front frame.
The wiping element is made from recycled carpet, while the main frame was welded together from bits of old, lightweight angle iron.
Matt Frater’s wool packer
Sheep farmer and part-time shearer Matt Frater knocked together his own wool packer to save two men dragging wool bags round the shed.
The simple design is constructed from box-section steel and can also be used for carting about four little square bales, recycling bags or 5gal drums.
Pins hold the bag open during filling. Once full, the outside frame is unlatched and removed, and the bag can be wheeled out of the way.
It means the wool can be packed tightly to keep the haulers and the British Wool Marketing Board happy.