Edible bale net takes the cake in Field Days awards

Orepuki farmer and inventor Grant Lightfoot displays his winning entry in the Southern Rural Life...
Orepuki farmer and inventor Grant Lightfoot displays his winning entry in the Southern Rural Life farm innovation awards held in conjunction with the Southern Field Days. PHOTO: SALLY RAE
It's good enough to eat.

Kiwi Eco Net, an edible bale net for baleage, hay and straw, won the open section in the Southern Rural Life Farm Innovation Awards, held in conjunction with the Southern Field Days at Waimumu this week.

Invented by Grant Lightfoot, a deer farmer from Orepuki near Riverton, the product eliminated the problem of plastic netting waste and was even safe enough for cows to eat.

It was while driving logging trucks that Mr Lightfoot first started pondering an environmentally friendly solution to the vast amounts of plastic used when making baleage. He recognised any solution needed to meet the modern farmer’s needs for sustainability, efficiency and animal health.

He and his partner hand-stitched about 50m of natural plant fibres, which he likened to a jute yarn, which he then trialled through a baler. As soon as it went through the baler he knew he was "on to something".

He recalled many trials during the past years and a trip to the United States seeking investment, where he was asked for a PowerPoint presentation which left him blank-faced.

The net wrap was edible so it reduced the labour and expense of traditional wrap removal and disposal, streamlining feeding processes. Mr Lightfoot had trialled it on animals and there was no trace of it internally, nor in the milk of a cow after being fed.

The Southern Field Days were the product’s first public outing and Mr Lightfoot was thrilled with the interest shown. On just the first day of the event, his second visitor to his site, from Scotland, told him it was the best thing he had seen at any Field Day anywhere.

"It’s starting to get scary now.

"I’ve got goose bumps when I talk about it; it’s mind-blowing," he said.

Runner-up in the open section was Future Post, a fencepost designed by fencer and farmer Jerome Wenzlick which was made from waste plastic. The idea for the product came when he was attempting to erect a fence on an old rubbish dump site and found his wooden fence posts broke as he tried to ram them through buried waste plastic.

Sean Blenkin won the No.8 Wire Award with Stockezy, a flow control gate while Donald Cornwall’s Strainrite — Hot Wheel Fence, an automated moving fence for break-feeding cattle on crop, and Nicky and Peter Baker’s ABMAN, a handy tool for opening bungs on 100 litre and 200 litre barrels, were both highly commended.

ABMAN was designed by the couple’s late son Andrew as a school project. The Baker family decided to develop the product further, test demand and take it to market. Their intention was to give a portion of any profit made to a mental health charity.

Limehills School pupil Emily Officer won the school award with a spray can holder while schoolmate Zac Gill was highly commended with a plant waterer.