A sensor that alerts farmers when their cows' water supply gets too low has taken out the top prize in the inaugural South-west Victorian Dairy Innovation Challenge.
The Water Rat trough and tank sensor, entered by Nick Seymour of Farmo Group Pty Ltd, also took out the local sustainability-environmental award at the Warrnambool event on Wednesday.
The challenge is a DemoDAIRY Foundation (DDF) initiative in partnership with Great South Coast Food and Fibre and Elders.
Judges said the Water Rat's simplicity addressed a real issue for farmers that had significant consequences.
"The Water Rat was designed primarily as an alert to let farmers know when there is a problem with the water supply to their cows," Mr Seymour said.
"But we've had people report that the historical data has revealed some troughs were going empty for a couple of hours every day, and that they never picked this up during a morning water run. They can then use that information to make sure the cattle have sufficient water supply."
It includes an accelerometer tilt sensor to detect movement, an NB-IoT chip to send data, and a GPS.
Geoff Schaller of Arcoflex Pty Ltd Boronia won the Sustainability-Environmental award for outside the south-west for an energy monitoring system to improve farm energy efficiencies.
Lisette Mill from Basalt to Bay Landcare Network received the encouragement Sustainability-Environmental award for a Pop-up Puddle diversity survey kit.
A magnet, length of cord and a hook were all that Scott's Creek farmer Jamie Vogels needed to come up with an award-winning dairy farm innovation.
Mr Vogels' milk hose steadier won the local farm award in South-west Victoria's first Dairy Innovation Challenge, eclipsing 18 other entries in the competition.
DemoDAIRY Foundation judges said the milk hose steadier was something that many farmers could use to prevent cup slippage while milking cows. "The beauty of this innovation is in its simplicity to address an everyday issue for farmers," the judges said.
The farm award from outside south-west Victoria was won by Anna Norgen from STgen in Albury with a precision map for dairy cow breeding with a customised herd audit that shows genetic trends.
Judges said it was a good use of digital and technical advancements to streamline breeding and semen use decisions for farmers to achieve 'fit for purpose' cows.
Wangoom's Peter Crothers won the farm encouragement award to further develop an idea for his "robodog" concept, a fully autonomous robotic dog set on a ride-on lawn mower body with a robot GPS tracked from a central computer at the dairy.
"We encourage the creativity and aspirational reaches of this concept to harness the potential of digital technologies to improve the efficiencies across the dairy farm," judges said.
DemoDAIRY foundation chair Ralph Leutton said the challenge had demonstrated the positive outlook of dairy farmers.
"Farmers are the most inventive people you come across and dairy farmers are a prime example of that," he said.
"The DemoDAIRY Foundation Innovation Challenge has helped to bring some of their innovations to the fore and I thank the entrants and the judges for their contribution."
The winners share more than $8000 in prize money.
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