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Gatekeeper

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Automated, solar-powered gate opener Batt-Latch.

Farm animals live gated lives—and so do their human gatekeepers, often getting up in the middle of the night to open gates and allow stock to move. So when we heard about ag innovation company Novel Ways creating the automated, solar-power gate opener ‘Batt-Latch’, we figured farmers and their charges would be grateful for the technology. “It’s a great time-saving mechanism, and it saves fuel, too,” says Novel Ways owner Graham Lynch.

Because the gate can be set to open, it also allows the cows to move through at their own pace without being pushed through by a farmer in a hurry, reducing the risk of lameness. Novel Ways has been working on prototypes for the Batt-Latch since 1994 and recently converted it to run on solar power—which has the nice payoff of allowing the company to export without worrying about different electrical systems in different countries. The company is currently working on prototypes for a remotely-operated gate opener too—allowing farmers not only to sleep at night, but to stay warm in the cab as well.

Still, it’s not easy getting the gadgets into rural stores. “It’s been quite tough getting them to market,” says Lynch. “We’re tending to see clusters of them popping up across the country. One farmer will get one, then eventually his neighbour will ask him how the hell his cows are getting up to the feedpad so easily, then he’ll get one.”

One solution: selling the $395 gates direct on Trade Me.