Two Mansfield brothers, who have developed an intuitive device designed to save lives on farms, have added to the product to give a more holistic assessment of the welfare and safety for farmers and their families and staff. ANDY WILSON spoke to them.
James and Paul Diamond have launched a beta trial of a mental health assessment platform, which is added their innovative safety device AirAgri, and believe the crucial need for farmers’ total welfare will overcome the product being just another “next best thing”.
The innovation has been developed through a pragmatic approach to confront the concept of “technology fatigue”.
“The challenge is not unique to this environment, but relevant emerging technology ideas can overwhelm farmers in terms of the many products made available,” Paul said.
“The agricultural community has enough on their plates already and unless you are solving something which is of significant value, then it simply won’t get prioritised by potential customers.”
The technology has been backed with closed trials on more than 100 farms.
AirAgri has already developed two stages of ensuring farm safety.
A personal location device barely bigger than a matchbox is carried by every member of a farm’s community to ensure an immediate response in the event of an accident.
The device is pre-programmed with a detailed digital map of a farm which records topography and areas of potential danger.
In the event of an accident, an online algorithm can determine its severity and respond accordingly.
A third stage is now being developed to monitor and triage the whole welfare of any user, by having a mental health screening capability.
“What we have achieved is one of the most important things in terms of farm sustainability,” James said.
“However, it’s not about environmental sustainability, but is all about protecting the human capital on your property.”
Farm safety and survival is defined by the brothers as a two-sided coin.
“One is the physical risks with farming and the flip side is the fact that farming can be very stressful and become a mental health risk to farmers.
“The tip of the arrow to AirAgri is reducing the amount of risk on both sides of that coin, and it would be very naive to try and tackle physical safety without being aware of indirect and direct mental health pressures.”
The app acts as a triage for farmers by asking rudimentary questions about how they feel and has been developed with the help of professional mental health practitioners.
The platform avoids medical jargon by asking generic open questions, which are then analysed to determine the frequency, mood and tone of the user, allowing an algorithm to get an understanding of the user’s mental welfare.
James said early research showed a larger disconnect in rural locations when it comes to talking about mental health compared to people in cities.
“The rural version of these conversations works against the psyche of our ‘she’ll be right’ approach to life, however we need to protect that sentiment but only if people have the tools to empower themselves to be who they are: independent and living in an amazing part of rural Australia,” he said.
“AirAgri gives us a mood board indicator, that we can share with the farmer to indicate what we’re assessing at a medical level, but the results from it will only be diagnosed by a medical professional.
“It is a tool that uses scientifically approved metrics to highlight its user’s needs.”
AirAgri’s mission is built on its motto “ensure everyone comes home” and is the foundation to the Diamond brothers’ initiative, building on their own experience of a four-generation family farm which has had its share of near misses.
“The majority of farms involve family, and the dynamic of living in the same space in addition to all the external pressures of vulnerability to such things as commodity price fluctuation, market prices and the weather weigh on mental health challenges.”
The Diamonds recognise the extent of current work into mental health and described their product as “not a lone ranger exercise”.
“This is a game changer; it doesn’t exist today.
“It’s not show-boating but is us genuinely developing tools to change the safety profile on Australian farms.
“We shouldn’t have to change who we are.”