2020 Farm Inventions competition: win cash prizes

It’s time for another season of Farmers Weekly’s long-running Farm Inventions Competition.

If you love reading about workshop creations and have designed a machine, gadget or knick-knack of your own, it’s time to get involved.

We had loads of great entries last year and we are hoping for more this time around.

See also: Workshop legends: 86-year-old serial inventor Arthur Howick

The format remains the same, so even if you’ve built something small and relatively uncomplicated, you are still in with a chance of winning one of the top cash prizes.

The total prize pot for this year is £2,550 – the winners of each category will bag £500, runners-up get £250 and third-place finishers take home £100, with the results decided by a panel made up of journalists and farmers.

To see the best of last year’s entries, follow the links below:

Clever farm-made loader attachments and bale trailers

Strap winders, gate lifters and other clever farm gadgets

Slick fencing kits and one-man wood processors

Drills and cultivators on a budget

Genius workshop builds for dairy and beef farmers

Simple ideas for sheep and pig farmers

Competition details

The entries are split into three categories: simple, intermediate and complex.

  • Simple Items that took a day or so to knock together and are fairly basic in the way they work, but still save time or money.
  • Intermediate Anything more complicated, perhaps with some simple form of hydraulic or electrical system.
  • Complex Inventions that have taken days, weeks or even years to design and build. They usually involve an engine or fairly complex combination of electrics and hydraulics.

Who is eligible to enter?

Farmers, contractors, farm managers and workers are all welcome.

What if I’ve entered my design in other local inventions competitions in the past?

You’re still welcome to enter.

What are the prizes?

The winner of each of the three categories gets £500, runners-up each get £250 and the third-placers get £100.

Will you feature the winners?

All six winning inventions will be featured, along with the best of the rest, in Farmers Weekly magazine and online.

Many of the machines that you see on the stands at shows such as Lamma start life in the farm workshop, so it’s a great opportunity to get your ideas in the shop window.

How do I enter?

Just send some details about how the machine works and what you use it for to oliver.mark@proagrica.com. You can also get in touch via Farmers Weekly’s Facebook account, or by tagging @FWMachinery on Twitter.

You will need to attach a couple of decent-quality pictures and a contact phone number so we can get in touch.

Who won last year?

Stephen McGuffie’s poly winding machine – complex category winner
The complex category top prize went to fruit and vegetable grower Stephen McGuffie, for his cleverly designed and beautifully built polythene winding tool.

The one-off machine was made to wind up plastic and rope used to cover tunnel structures over crops of berries, cherries and asparagus and is powered by an intricate electric-over-hydraulic system.

Poly winding machine

Stephen-McGuffie’s poly winding machine

In operation, a rotating spool is used to draw the materials in, the speed of which can be controlled by the operator.

To help make sure distribution is even along the spool, there is also a sliding aperture, which can be moved from side to side during the winding process.

When it comes to unloading a full spool, the operator simply opens the access doors and releases the spool shaft clamps. A hydraulically actuated cradle is then used to lift the spool off the drive shaft and eject it onto the ground.

The key reason for using an electric-over-hydraulic system is the safety measures it offers. By taking a 12V supply from the tractor and running it through a relay control, Mr McGuffie has been able to introduce several cut-outs for the hydraulics.

These include two emergency stop buttons, a trip bar close to the poly in-feed, cam switches on the access doors and a manual reset button.

If any of the safety devices are triggered, the machine will stop instantly and it can’t be restarted until the operator presses the manual reset button.

Mr McGuffie built the winder for the family business, New Farm Produce, based in Staffordshire, and it took about 18 months to complete.

All in, the cost of materials came to £5,500-£6,000. At the request of the HSE, he also went through the process of getting it CE marked.

John Stephens’ Cornish loader – intermediate category winner
The wackiest invention was John Stephens’ Cornish loader with a twist.

It is based on a 5t Thwaites dumper, from which he removed the skip and mounted the loader from a David Brown 995.

Cornish loader

John Stephens’ Cornish loader

Fitting it to the swivel means the loader can turn in either direction and get into the most awkward of cow shed corners.

He also lowered the roll bar and fitted a roof canopy to provide some protection from winter rain, which also provides a handy mounting point for the lights.

It is used daily through the winter for feeding and bedding, and it also works on the silage clamp in early summer. Mr Stephens has also fitted greedy boards to the removed skip, so it makes a neat dump trailer.

Jim Clay’s one-man gate lift – simple category winner
Sometimes the simple things are the best, like Jim Clay’s ingenious one-man gate lifter that took the top prize in the simple category.

The Herefordshire farmer’s nifty tool allows a person to effortlessly lift and hang a gate single-handedly, which, as anyone who has tried it will attest, is a particularly tricky task.

Man using one-man gate lift

Jim Clay’s one-man gate lift

The main component is a curved metal trolley that clips onto the bottom of the gate. With this attached, the gate can be trundled to the place where it needs to be hung.

Once there, a wider handle is hooked on the hinge end of the gate and a rope is connected between this and the top of the trolley frame.

By turning the handle, the trolley will then rock forward on its curved frame, causing the gate to lift in a controlled manner.

The user can then line the hinges up before turning the handle in reverse to lower it into place.

Mr Clay has been perfecting the design for a number of years with the assistance of local engineer Tom Oseman. He estimates it costs about £65 to produce.