Pipiwai beef farmer Alex Macmillan has developed a stainless steel electric fence gate spring which won't rust or fall to bits like the plastic gate springs which are the only option available on farm supply store shelves at the moment.

His neighbour Grant Lomas assembled what has been dubbed the Lomacs gate spring from sections of stainless steel pipe he had in his workshop and springs, bolts and other bits which Macmillan had acquired.

The prototype was entered in the National Agricultural Fieldays innovation awards at Mystery Creek last month.

Macmillan didn't catch the eye of the judges, but said his spring drew interest from electric fence manufacturers such as Gallaghers and he was waiting for a call from a Taranaki engineering company which was to give him a price for making the spring commercially.

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Alex said plastic gate springs cost about $11. They had to be replaced every two or three years and he had about 85 of them at his farm with the springs pulled out.

Farmers at the Fieldays had told him they were prepared to pay up to $50 for a stainless steel gate spring they would never have to replace so he was hoping the Lomacs spring could have a commercial future for farming and, possibly, marine applications.

Macmillan began farming 324ha — mostly covered in manuka — at Pipiwai on 1966.
Now aged 80, he has his son Steven as part-owner of the farm and another son, Michael, is involved in the Lomacs project.

The farm runs about 150 cattle, including about 30 Wagyu breeding cows, 20 Simmentals and 15 Hinterwaelders.

2018 INNOVATION AWARD WINNERS
Fieldays Grassroots Prototype Award: Acuris Systems for its prototype robot which autonomously navigates kiwifruit orchards while capturing highly accurate fruit data to help growers analyse their orchards' performance.

Fieldays Grassroots Established Award: Pamu Farming New Zealand. Landcorp has just completed its second season of deer milking in partnership with the Peter and Sharon McIntyre. Significant, world-first research and intellectual property has been developed from behind the farm gate through to a finished RMP approved product which Pamu Foods can now use to assess market demand and price tolerance.

Fieldays Prototype Highly Commended: Maraeroa C Incorporation for its Ginseng Berry Gin, a New Zealand first made from ginseng berries grown in natural conditions at Pureora. The ginseng berry gin has subtle flavours and textures and also has some health benefits.

Fieldays Launch NZ Highly Commended: Paysauce/Season app which enables orchard supervisors to collect timesheet and contract rate information and push it straight to payroll in seconds.

Fieldays Launch NZ Award: Agricom/Ecotain environmental plantain, an environmentally functional plantain that reduces nitrogen leaching from the urine patch, as well as being a high quality, winter active forage.

Sponsored award winners:

* Young Innovator of the Year Award went to St Paul's Year 13 students Edward Sclater, Thomas Nicholson, Spencer Clayton-Greene and Jarrod Mealings designed a product called 'gudgeon guard' which fits over a gate gudgeon to help lift it off the ground.

* Vodafone Innovation Technology Award and the Tompkins Wake IP and Commercialisation Award went to Halter virtual fencing with GPS tracking, solar-powered cow collars.

* Sprout Global Growth Award went to Equilume, which uses blue light therapy to help advance the breeding season in horses.

* Locus Research Innovation Award went to T C Fence Systems, makers of the CoffeeKlips no tool farm fence batten system.

* Origin Innovation IP went to Micropod which combines hydroponics and clever design to allow anyone to grow microgreens.

* Crowe Horwath Agri Innovation Award went to Kelvin Thermo Dog, which makes insulated kennels for farm dogs.

* Callaghan Innovation Partnership and Collaboration Award went to Holsim for its analogue and digital clinical skills birthing cow which reviews the calf position via an augmented reality app.