By Annie Savage
Joe and Wendy Wecker are taking what they hope will be a major step in preventing farm injuries in Canada, especially among children.
The Weckers are working to bring an innovative, and potentially life-saving, bracelet from Germany to market in North America.
The device is called Kinderfinder, and is designed to let parents and caregivers know when a child is getting dangerously close to active farm equipment, before tragedy has a chance to strike.
The Weckers themselves are the owners of combines, tractors and other farm equipment, and have three young children of their own. As Wendy Wecker explained, fear for their children's safety is what sparked their interest in Kinderfinder.
"That's why we're so sure of it, because we knew it was something that we would need. I thought, 'There must be more families out there with kids like ours,'" Wecker recalled.
The device resembles a standard wrist-watch, and contains a radio frequency transmitter that sends a signal to the receiver. When the bracelet gets within 100 feet of the farm machinery containing the receiver, an alarm goes off, allowing the farmer time enough to turn off the machine before a child can get too close. The bracelet can be warn on the wrist or attached to a child's clothing, or even a beloved pet's collar.
Their endeavor began when the Weckers learned of the product on a trip to Germany, where Joe grew up.
The Kinderfinder had recently received a gold medal at Germany's Agritechnica, the world's largest exhibition for agricultural machinery and equipment. As it turned out, there were no Canadian dealers for the bracelet as of yet, and the Weckers decided that needed to change.
As with any new business endeavor, getting the idea off the ground has been a challenge. The Weckers, along with business partners Travis & Corrine Wiens, are still working to get Canadian certification for Kinderfinder, which can be a lengthy process.
The device also had to undergo extensive testing, including toxicity tests, to ensure that it is safe and reliable. The radio frequency also had to be tweaked to suit the location.
"The one that comes from Germany is on a different radio frequency than what's allowed in Canada," Wecker explained.
The Weckers recently attended Agribition '09 in Regina, where they had a chance to explain the product and gauge public interest.
"A lot of people said, 'That's a great idea - I can't believe no one thought of something like that sooner,' because it's so simple," Wecker said.
She was perturbed by the number of people at Agribition who approached her with stories of farm tragedies that they've experienced, but it made her all the more certain that Kinderfinder could truly make a difference.
"So many people seemed to have a story where an accident had occurred, of a child being run over," Wecker said sadly.
She stresses that when it comes to children, nothing can take the place of proper parental supervision. However, she understands that even the most diligent parents cannot keep an eye on their children 100 per cent of the time.
"I know everyone tries to be safe, and always try to make sure that they're not in range when the equipment is moving - it's just an extra tool to be certain that they're safe."
According to the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture (CCHSA), between 1990 and 2007, machinery-related injury accounted for 83% of deaths among children 14 years of age and younger in Saskatchewan. Incidents involving an extra rider, and incidents involving a runover accounted for 48.2% of deaths. The leading cause of injury in this group was being run over by farm machinery, and of those killed in runovers, 71% were just one to four years old.
Once a bracelet is purchased, it can be used with any Kinderfinder receiver, which plugs into a standard cigarette lighter. The radio frequency transmitter cannot be opened, so there is no chance that a child will turn it off.
The Weckers are hoping that the concept will eventually blossom into a sustainable business, but that isn't their main goal.
"The biggest thing is that we would just like to see the statistics drop - to see less farm accidents involving children."
Sask couple hopes farm bracelet will save lives
By Annie Savage
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