'Third Arm' invention from Moate farm set for market this year
A Westmeath man's award-winning invention for helping attach implements to tractors looks set to go on the market later this year.
Philip Dickson, a mechanic who is also involved in beef and sheep farming with his father, John, on the Dublin Road in Moate, developed 'The Third Arm' in recent years.
Described as both a safety and convenience tool, it removes the need to have a person at the back of a tractor when attaching an implement. It helps to adjust a tractor's link arm width in order to optimise the process of attaching implements to the standard tractor 3-point linkage.
Operated by remote control from the tractor's cab, the invention takes away the risk of putting somebody in the 'crush zone' between tractor and implement.
Philip explained that farms which are being worked by just one person are more common these days, and one of the advantages of the Third Arm is that it can be operated by a single individual on their own.
After "toying with the idea for a couple of years," he displayed it publicly at the Tullamore show in August 2019. The enthusiasm of the reaction since then has come as a surprise.
"I wasn't expecting it to be as well-received as it has been, but this is a common problem that everybody has on farms," he said.
"With the way the weather is, you only get a little window of time to do a job. Nine times out of ten you are rushing, and if it's not going right the more frustrated you get.
"The initial hook-up is always the worst part of putting any implement on the tractor - once you have the two lift-arms on you have the worst part of the job done."
The Third Arm won first prize in the agriculture, horticulture and forestry section at the 2019 Tullamore Show, and was subsequently displayed at the Ploughing Championships that year.
Trading under the Dickson Agri Solutions name, it then secured a €50,000 investment through Enterprise Ireland's Competitive Start Fund. A further endorsement came last September, when the product won the Farm Safety Award in the ‘Start-Up’ category at Enterprise Ireland's Innovation Arena Awards for 2020.
Looking ahead, Philip said he had made a number of slight adjustments to his innovation to help make it more user-friendly.
A European patent for the Third Arm is now pending, and an initial production run of a few hundred units is expected to be completed later this year.
"Covid has slowed us down. We had hoped to be in the market already with the product, but the pandemic delayed the whole process," Philip explained.
"But we are working on the first production run, and we hope to have it in the market in the third quarter of this year."
At the moment, all of the production is being carried out locally, within 10 to 15 miles of the Dickson family farm in Moate. With demand set to exceed the initial supply, there have been talks with bigger trade bodies about potentially ramping up the production process.
"We have a mailing list, and I could safely say that whatever I make I will have sold already, directly to the end user. We are getting emails and calls the whole time from people looking for units," he said.
* More information about the Third Arm can be found at: www.thethirdarm.com