Tocumwal’s Phil and Lynda Snowden have capped off years of success with their farm invention by winning a national award last week.
They took out the New Technology Award under the National Farmers’ Federation’s 2010 Innovation in Agriculture Awards held in Melbourne.
The Snowden’s 330 hectare hay and cattle property is the birthplace of Hay Caps — an invention for safely and efficiently storing hay.
The New Technology Award recognises farmers that have instigated, adapted or seized upon technological advances and employed them with great effect on-farm.
The latest award is the couple’s biggest win to date, but definitely not their first taste of success.
“We first entered the Hay Caps into the Henty field days farm inventor competition in 2007,” Mr Snowden says.
“We got an encouragement award there and went up to the Orange field days with them and come first in the regional competition.
“Then in 2007 we made a fair few of them and used them in our contracting business.”
Then some changes to the design occurred.
“We changed our synthetic rope to a wire rope and went to heavy duty thickness in 2008 and sold them throughout Australia,” he says.
Then the real fame and fortune began, with Hay Caps taking out an episode of The New Inventors in May 2009.
Haystacks are typically high and dangerous to cover using traditional tarpaulins.
But Hay Caps are fitted to hay bales at ground level and secured with pegs.
The tractor picks up and stacks the bales, ensuring the covered bale is on top.
As the haystack is built, the folds of the Hay Caps fold together creating a roof, ensuring no gaps between the bales and full coverage even if the stacking is a bit rough.
Mr Snowden says the Hay Caps are now all produced on-farm at Tocumwal.
“We now do everything here on the farm other than the recycled sheet of plastic that we get out of Melbourne,” he says.
“We’ve got half a dozen guys here employed full-time.
“We’re making thousands of them, I don’t want to put a figure on it but we’ve got them in every Australian state bar the Northern Territory and we’ve started exporting them as well this year.”
Mr Snowden says the invention has helped them out during tough times.
“It’s been good for us with the drought and the zero water allocation,” he says.
“We’ve been doing a lot of contract hay-making in the last few years and we’ve been using them as part of the business as well.”
And, they’ll be back at Henty again this year, where the journey began.