Slurry gas deaths could be avoided with this text-ready sensor

  • Agricultural entrepreneur Mark Elliott is disturbed by the prevalence of deaths in Ireland from farming accidents.

    “I thought, there must be a way for this to stop happening,” he says. 

    “I came across a few people affected by the fumes from slurry gas. Then one of my customers died. It spurred me on to invent Gas Hound,” he explains. 

    Gas Hound isn’t complicated. It’s a portable sensor that detects hydrogen sulphide. Just one breath of this toxic chemical, found in slurry gas, can be deadly. Because this gas is odourless and invisible, our human fear-sensing mechanisms fail us. 

    “Gas Hound works like a lighthouse, if it’s flashing, sounding, or if it sends you a text, you know to stay away until the fumes subside,” says Mark.

    Mark was keen to go one step further than the solutions widely available today: wearable sensors. And for very good reason.

    “If you’re wearing it, and the sensor goes off, you’re already in the danger zone. You could already have taken a deadly breath of the fumes,” he points out. 

    Because farmers could mix slurry in various places on the farm, it was imperative that Gas Hound was portable and mobile-integrated.

    He says, “I applied for, and received, an innovation voucher from Invest Northern Ireland. We then took it to the Letterkenny Institute of Technology to work out the best prototype. After a second innovation voucher, I was able to get a working model.” 

    Mark says the “battery will last for three years.” His guide price for the product is £399. It includes a strobe light, texting service, and alarm.

    When asked about his biggest design challenge, Mark talked about how sensitive the alarm needed to be. “Hydrogen sulphide is lethal only above a certain concentration. Figuring out the optimum level for it to go off at – that was hard. If it was set too low, it would go off all the time and just become background noise.” 

    Mark says his selling strategy will focus on direct, online sales. “This is plug and play – switch it on, and off you go,” he says.

    Mark is dedicated to manufacturing Gas Hound in Northern Ireland. He says, “I aim to launch the product at Winter Fair, held every year around Christmastime, a large conference for the farming communities.” 

    Mark’s background with argricultural equipment has given him an insight into the market for Gas Hound. “Most intensive farms in Europe rely on housing their animals through the winter, and the slurry is stored in containers. It has to be mixed before spreading, so this creates risk, and potential for the Gas Hound to be used. There are 89 million cattle in the EU alone, and 147 million pigs.”

    Gas Hound is a finalist in the Invent Awards 2018 competition, in the ‘Agr-Science’ category.

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