A passion for engineering, a trade in welding and fabrication and an idea sparked on the farm was the recipe for success behind one of the Wheatbelt’s up-and-coming engineering businesses.
Brookton-born Daniel Watkins was visiting his uncle in Newdegate, when they got chatting about efficiency with feeding.
It sparked a fire in the self-taught engineer’s head, who worked around the clock to bring his vision of a high-efficiency hay trailer to life.
“Something clicked in my head and I said to my wife, ‘I’ve got to disappear for a few days because I need to get this out of my head — I can see something here and I need to get it out there’,” he said.
After spending 18 hours a day designing it, his vision became a reality.
“I made one and gave it to a local farmer to use here in Brookton,” Mr Watkins said. “With him, we developed it and tweaked it and got to what the product is now.” The director of Eagle Eye Engineering last weekend won the Wagin Woolorama’s New Release Award for the product.
“It’s really humbling,” Mr Watkins said.
Everything I do is made off farmer feedback ... I have a big passion for working on new designs to increase efficiency for them.
“I got really lucky with the direction farmers pushed me in with the idea.”
Since hitting the market three months ago, 14 of the trailers — which Mr Watkins said doubled, if not tripled the efficiency of feeding — have already flown out the door.
“What we’ve done is created a much more efficient solution for them,” he said.
The way they’re traditionally doing it ... if you were going to feed hay for that day, you’d typically start at 8am and wouldn’t be finished by 5pm. Now, you could be finished by midday.
“It frees their time up to do something else or spend more time with their family. If they get an extra four hours to spend with their kids at the end of the day, that’s priceless.”
Mr Watkins said bar the cutting of the string, the process of feeding hay out from the four or six bale trailers, was fully automated, increasing both efficiency and safety.
“The most fundamental part of the design is we’re using a chain to drive the mechanism, which allows them to push the hay off and return the frame all with a wireless remote from the safety of inside the cab. The only manual intervention is getting out and cutting the string (and) when they cut the string, they can tie that off and it will pull the string out of the bale, so they’re not manually handling trying to get the string out of the bale.”
It is the Wheatbelt engineer’s second product to create major waves in the agricultural industry, with 105 of his trail feeders being put to work on farms across the State, from Geraldton to Esperance.
The journey over the past few years had been “humbling,” Mr Watkins said.
From renting a shed for a small repairs shop, where he would “repair anything that would walk in the door,” and staying up all night teaching himself design and 3D modelling, he now employs nine people at his Brookton base.
The products are Wheatbelt designed and manufactured and Mr Watkins has plans to release more designs in the coming years.