We first learnt about 'Spikey' — the cow urine-sniffing robot — four years ago as part of the Te Awamutu Courier Grassroots Innovations series from National Fieldays 2015.
Back then the Spikey had won the Most Innovative Award at Fieldays for inventors and Pastoral Robotics partners Dr Bert Quin and Geoff Bates.
This week the Institute of Mechanical Engineering, one of the oldest and most internationally respected professional mechanical engineering bodies in the world, has awarded Pastoral Robotics the Energy Environment and Sustainability Group prize.
This annual prize is to be awarded to a mechanical engineer who has taken significant steps to bridge the gap between an unsustainable present and a more sustainable future.
Bates, an engineer and managing director of Pastoral Robotics, says the award is recognition of the impact the technology will have on the world's environment, minimising nitrate leaching and greenhouse gas emissions from pastoral farming.
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" It is great to see a New Zealand innovation being recognised by such a prestigious professional body.
"The award is hugely gratifying and an honour to be recognised internationally."
Bates will speak at the group's annual meeting in December at 1 Birdcage Walk, London, a venue that is a bastion of engineering history.
He sees the impact of farming on the environment as one of the most serious technical challenges of our time, one we have to solve in a manner that improves productivity and our standard of living without putting livelihoods at risk, 'innovative new technology is the best, if not the only, way we can achieve this.' IMechE, based in London, was founded in 1847 and currently has 120,000 members in 140 different countries.
Bates and Quin, founder of Summit Quinphos, met by chance in 2013.
Quin was working on a project for a tail-activated N-inhibiter device and Bates was working on a robotic tanker to collect and distribute shed effluent and cow waste.
The pair pooled their considerable resources and knowledge to invent Spikey, which detects and treats urine patches.
They formed Pastoral Robotics — with a motto of "Productivity, profitability, clean streams".
Spikey is a fitment which is towed through recently grazed fields and uses signals from spiked metal wheels to detect recent urine patches. It has a high degree of accuracy.
Spikey then applies NitroStop to the urine patches to grow more pasture by harvesting the urine nitrogen.
The Spikey technology has proven to grow more grass, reduce nitrogen discharge to the air and water whilst improving profitability.
It is a platform for targeted treatment of the main source of leaching — cow urine spots.
"The precision Spikey provides opens up a multitude of opportunities to specifically target nitrogen losses to the air and water, it is a paradigm shift in the way pastoral farming can be managed," says Bates.