An early-stage agri-tech business that hopes to make farms safer by giving machinery the “power of sight”, has clinched a £75,000 proof of concept grant.

Newry firm Machine Eye has been named the winner of a new competition from Techstart Ventures and Belfast Harbour, supported by BT.

The agri-tech firm’s technology uses artificial intelligence and visual feeds to automatically predict and prevent accidents involving humans, protecting farm employees and visitors.

Machine Eye provides an intelligent safety system for agricultural and industrial machinery, which harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision to create safer workplaces. Like an airbag on a car, its “human protection platform” is designed to intervene in the crucial seconds before an accident occurs in an outdoor, industrial setting in order to save lives.

As well as the funding from Techstart, Belfast Harbour will also provide Machine Eye with an environment to develop, refine and test its innovations alongside expert support and access to the 5G private network being developed by BT in partnership with Belfast Harbour.

The competition aligns with Belfast Harbour’s key strategic Smart Port ambition to stimulate innovation and keep its employees, customers and visitors safe using innovative digital solutions.

‘Preventing accidents before they happen’

Machine Eye founder Brendan Digney said: “Machine Eye aims to act as a safety net, protecting all those in primary industries, regardless of whether they are a worker or bystander.

“By analysing human and machine behaviour, Machine Eye acts ahead of time, identifying and preventing accidents before they’ve got a chance to develop.

“We are really excited to have won the competition as it provides us with funding to deploy our proof-of-concept system, pilot hardware and develop capabilities further for practical commercial use.

“The opportunity to work alongside Belfast Harbour and BT, in the operational harbour environment, will also be invaluable.”

Kathleen Garrett from Techstart, said: “Machine Eye has a unique opportunity to work closely with the people who will use its product while it is still being developed.

“We have found that building early versions of products with the close involvement of a first customer can be really helpful. We are hopeful this initiative will help the company to accelerate its high growth potential.”

Mark Gibson, business development director at BT in Northern Ireland, said: “Winning this competition is a fantastic opportunity to accelerate innovation and I would like to congratulate Brendan and the team at Machine Eye on their enthusiasm and well-deserved prize.

“We look forward to working with Brendan and his team to support them as they grow their new business.”