Technology helps farmer with ALS keep farming

Here is an article from AgPro that talks about how remote technology is allowing a farmer with ALS to keep working. Even though he is no longer able to get in the tractor, remote data access and employees are allowing him to manage his farm from the office. Click on the link below to view the article.

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Product review: Warmfit rechargeable heated insoles

Several members of my family got Warmfit rechargeable heated insoles for Christmas and used them during the extreme cold this week so I thought I would write a quick product review based on their report.  At around $60 they were a bit of an investment, although their price is sort of mid-range for reusable heated insoles. The initial consensus seems to be that they do a good job of keeping your feet warm and if they hold up as well over time as they’re supposed to they were worth the price.

Overall, the insoles performed well even in extremely cold temperatures. Here is a quick summary of some of the feedback I got:

  • The insoles were warm but not too warm. The level of heat wasn’t noticeably warm, like wearing socks just out of the dryer or using one of those single-use heat packs, but they kept your feet at a comfortable room temperature even in extreme cold, and it made it so that you didn’t have to go in part way through cores to thaw out your feet.
  • The fact that they don’t get too warm might make this a good product for people with circulation issues whose feet get cold even on relatively warmer days.  Sometimes the single-use ones can be too much on days that are warmer so that you end up having to choose between cold feet and sweaty feet, but these are a nice medium.
  • The overall fit was really good.  The size ranges listed on the packages were accurate, and it was easy to trim off a little to fit smaller sizes within the listed range
  • The comfort level was good. Sometimes when you buy insoles, they’re too thick and cause your shoes to not fit properly.  These were thin enough that the fit wasn’t effected.  They also stayed in place really well while performing a wide variety of activities

The main limitation so far seems to be the battery life.  They only stayed warm for 5-6 hours, and the tendency was for one insole to run out of battery slightly before the other.  If you wanted to use these for a longer work day, you would need to consider buying at least 2 pair and switching in the middle of the day.

Another question that remains is how well they hold up over time.  Wearing them for a few days during the extreme cold worked out well, but it hasn’t been long enough to know how they will hold up with extensive use  or if they will continue to work well from year to year.

If you want to try them out yourself, they sell mainly through Amazon. (here is a link to the item page) Their Amazon reviews seem mostly positive too.  Might be worth trying out if you have a hard time keeping your feet warm.

Video Monitoring System for Horse Health

Here is an interesting article I stumbled on while I was doing some  research on artificial intelligence for a school project.  There is a company in Seattle called Magic AI that has developed a system to monitor horse health and behavior using a camera and deep learning software.  For anyone that is unfamiliar with the term, a deep learning program is a type of artificial intelligence where a complex computer learning system is fed data to teach it to identify certain patterns.  For this system, they gave the computer videos of horses behaving normally and video of horses experiencing health problems or stress. The system is trained to recognize when a horse is showing signs of stress through a video camera, and can sent an alert to a cell phone app.  The system can also be configured to monitor things like temperature, food/water consumption, and to act as a security camera. Owners can also use the wireless connection to check on their horses at any time.  At $2500 plus a monthly subscription fee, it’s a pricey system for now, but it might offer a glimpse into the future of health and security monitoring.

Click here to see the article

Prone to hitting your fingers when you’re hammering in nails? Check out this Kickstarter!

I was browsing Facebook this morning when I came across a video for a Kickstarter project.  The device is called “The Safety Nailer” and it is designed to make it easier to hold nails and protect your fingers from the hammer.  The design includes an internal magnet to help keep the nails in place, and a longer grip to hold the nail that makes it easier for the nail to go in straight.

Here is the link if you want to check it out.

Safety Tech: Harness for outside of grain bin/silo

I found a harness system by Northern Strands designed for the outside of grain bins. A lot of grain bin safety programs focus on safety inside the bin, but safety outside is important as well.  A coworker of one of my classmates in the ag safety program was severely injured because he was electrocuted while repairing part of a bin’s electrical system then fell. A harness like this would have prevented some his worst injuries!  The system costs between $300-$400 dollars, which is cheaper than installing a cage around the ladder or switching to a stair system, and in some ways is safer because it’s guaranteed to stop you from falling more than a few feet.  I’d imagine that this system would work well for silo ladders too.  If you’re interested in learning more, click here to visit their website.

Riding Helmet and Motorcycle/ATV Helmet Reviews

Here is an article I found on riding helmets. It’s produced by a group called Risky Head, which specializes in reviewing all kinds of helmets.  The article has reviews of their top 10 picks for riding helmets along with a buying guide. Wearing a helmet designed for riding reduces the risk of dying as a result of a fall by 70%-80% !!(Source)

Click here for riding helmet guide

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They also have a top 10 guide for motorcycle helmets, which can also be used with ATVs. Wearing a motorcycle, motocross, or ATV helmet with a face guard reduces the risk for head injury by 64% (Source).

Click here for motorcycle helmet guide

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Safety Tech: The Safety Zone Calf Catcher and Wisconsin Extension DIY Calf Catcher

Came across this video today and thought I’d share.  The name of this device is the Safety Zone calf catcher.  It’s designed to attach to an ATV. It helps make it easier to catch calves for vaccinating and to keep you safe from mom in the process.  My dad actually improvised a similar device years ago by curving a wire panel fence into a circle so he could carry it with him and put it over the calf.  This device is a big improvement though because it reduces the risk of falling while catching the calf, has a much sturdier design, and has the inner gate to help hold the calf still. Costing around $2,000, it is more expensive than a foot hook or a wire panel fence, but it’s a huge improvement in safety and convenience.

Click here to see the Safety Zone website.

When I did a quick search to look for alternate products, I also came across a website from the Wisconsin extension that shows a similar homemade device that can mount to the back of a small tractor. The website includes a set of plans for building your own. The plans don’t include the inner gate that the Safety Zone version has, but it would be easy enough to add one if you want.  They didn’t mention how much it cost to build their prototype, but if you have the time to build your own, you might be able to save some money.

Click here to see the Wisconsin extension’s calf catcher

Click here to see plans for the Wisconsin extension calf catcher.

Case Study: Lone Worker Dies after Fall from ATV

oday I’d like to present a case study involving a lone worker and a fall from an ATV.  The case comes from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), an independent organization that promotes worker safety in the United Kingdom. Their website includes a few dozen agricultural injury case studies (click here to see their ag case studies).  I chose this case to take a look at ATV safety and some of the dangers of working alone on the farm.

The Situation: A 53 year old gamekeeper severely injured his pelvis by falling from an ATV. He survived the initial injury, but was unable to call for help. It took 52 hours for someone to notice that he was missing, and he was found dead 200 yards from the scene of the initial injury.(click here to see original case description)

Risks Involved:  ATV Operation, working alone, lack of communication device/check in plan.

Risk Mitigation Strategies:  There are two main issues involved here, which are the risks of operating an ATV and the risks of working alone.  Since this was a fatal case, they weren’t able to provide much of a description of what caused the initial injury. There are a lot of things that can contribute to ATV injuries: terrain, excessive speed, improper loading, mechanical issues, training issues etc. I found an article by OSHA that summarizes some of the main hazards of ATV use and how to avoid them. Click here to see it.

The other, and in this case possibly the greater issue is that he was working alone in an isolated area, had no way to call for help, and there was no check in plan to prompt a search when he didn’t come back. This incident took place in 2004, so cellphones weren’t as universal as they are now.  However having a cell phone doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to call for help. Phone issues like low battery or poor signal can prevent you from making a call and if your phone breaks or if you’re unconscious as a result of the incident you won’t be able to call either.  That’s why the most important thing you can do is to avoid working alone whenever possible, and if you do work alone, let someone know where you’ll be and what time you expect to be back.  There are also a quite a few smartphone apps that can help protect lone workers. The systems use GPS to keep track of worker locations and can set up an emergency call button on the users’ phones. Some of them can also be set up to prompt users to check in by pushing a button on their phone at certain times, and call for help if the button isn’t pushed. Click here to see the top 10 lone worker apps.

The bottom line:  If you own an ATV, make sure that you and anyone else who drives it knows and follows all safety procedures. Try to avoid working alone as much as possible.  If you do work alone, let someone know where you will be and when you expect to be back. Cell phones can be a useful tool when working alone, but they can fail so make sure they’re not your only line of protection.