TWO West Cork students were recipients of awards for agriculture-related projects at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2021 (BTYSTE) last week.
Cian Walsh, a transition year student at St Brogan’s College, Bandon, was been announced as the winner of the Teagasc award, while Cathal O’Sullivan from Beara Community School in Castletownbere was the overall winner of the ABP Farm Safety Award.
Cian Walsh’s project looked at the social, economic and environmental benefits and drawbacks of growing hemp and to determine if it can promote sustainable farming in Ireland. His teacher at St Brogan’s is is Ms Laura O’Regan.
A variety of cannabis sativa, hemp is often confused with marijuana; and, although it contains the same active ingredient, the concentration is much lower in hemp. Hemp was one of the first plants in the world to be spun into useable fibre and has since been used for many other purposes.
Cian explains: ‘100% of the hemp crop can be processed into many different eco-friendly products; some examples include hempcrete, hemp insulation and hemp bioplastic.’ He surveyed farmers to determine the current knowledge surrounding hemp. He found that there was a great interest in the crop, but that only 36% of those surveyed would consider growing the crop.
However, after hosting an information meeting on zoom, the number interested rose to 64% once there were hemp processing facilities near their home farm. Cian added: ‘The benefits of growing hemp are endless, farmers are willing to make the change. But it is government investment in the industry that will be needed in order to grow Ireland’s hempire!’
The Teagasc Farm Business Options webinar, scheduled for Tuesday next, January 19th, at 11am, will focus on the opportunities for industrial hemp in Irish agriculture. For further information see www.teagasc.ie/farmbusinessoptions
Meanwhile, Beara student Cathal O’Sullivan’s innovative project, titled ‘Preventing machine accidents with warning systems,’ was the overall winner of the ABP Farm Safety Award at the 2021 BTYSTE. Cathal impressed the judges with his forward-thinking project that is designed to prevent accidental injuries and deaths from farm machinery.
The student from Beara Community School in Castletownbere designed a device that alerts users when they are in too close proximity to spinning machine parts, preventing them from accidentally coming into contact with them.
For the seventh consecutive year, ABP Food Group has sponsored the Farm Safety category, which year-on-year has produced ground-breaking projects from students across the country. The area of farm safety is a priority for ABP, and it is an issue that is still prevalent in Ireland today.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine reports that there were 19 fatal incidents on farms in 2020, with three of these being children under the age of 18, and nine being farmers aged 65 or more.
Annie Graham, livestock strategy manager with ABP, said: ‘On behalf of everyone in ABP, I would like to congratulate Cathal O’Sullivan on his successful award submission. His innovative project embodies the spirit of this award, finding new solutions to make our farms safer.
‘We would also like to thank all of the entrants for their submissions, and for their role in helping to increase awareness around this very important issue.’
The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition is one of the largest and longest-running STEM events in the world.