Newry’s Machine Eye to start testing AI system for farm safety

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From left: Trevor Anderson, Belfast Harbour; Brendan Digney, Machine Eye; Mark Gibson, BT; and Kathleen Garrett, Techstart. Image: Machine Eye

Machine Eye is set to start testing its accident-prevention system in Belfast Harbour with funding of £75,000 from Techstart Ventures.

A start-up developing an AI-powered safety system for agricultural and industrial workplaces has been awarded £75,000 by Techstart Ventures with support from Belfast Harbour and BT.

Newry-based Machine Eye has developed a human-protection platform that acts like an airbag in a car, aiming to intervene in the seconds before an accident occurs in a workplace with agricultural and industrial machinery. Machine Eye will now test its product in Belfast Harbour with access to a private 5G network from BT.

The company’s founder, Brendan Digney, has a farming background and a master’s degree from Queen’s University Belfast.

His start-up has already won a number of awards, including the Farm Safety Partnership Innovation award in 2018 and Enterprise Ireland’s one-to-watch award and safety innovation award in the Innovation Arena at the National Ploughing Championships in the same year. In 2019, Digney travelled to New Zealand with Enterprise Ireland to take part in the Fieldays International Innovation Showcase.

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“Machine Eye aims to act as a safety net, providing protection for all those in primary industries, regardless of whether they are a worker or bystander,” Digney said. “By analysing human and machine behaviour, Machine Eye acts ahead of time, identifying and preventing accidents before they’ve a chance to develop.”

The start-up will use the funding to deploy its proof-of-concept system, he added, as well as pilot hardware and develop the product for further practical commercial use.

Kathleen Garrett from Techstart said that Machine Eye has a “unique opportunity” to work 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,” she added. “We are hopeful this initiative will help the company to accelerate its high growth potential.”