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Hybrid Supa Slats highly commended for their innovation

An innovation that UK dairy farmers have been crying out for, Wolfenden’s new Hybrid Supa Slats were this week highly commended, against tough competition, for the Product or Service Innovation Award, one of five NW SME Growth & Innovation Awards for 2022. The Awards recognise innovation and business growth, and are an initiative run by the internationally recognised SME Productivity & Innovation Centre at Edge Hill University.

The judging panel recognised Wolfenden’s innovation in designing and manufacturing a product which addresses herd welfare, emission reduction, and on-farm structural capacity issues – critical problems facing the UK’s dairy sector.

Poor flooring is a huge problem for British farmers, and, prior to Wolfenden’s next generation Hybrid Slats, the only option was to retrofit RAV rated sloping rubber matting. But this only addresses one area at a time and creates new problems with differing floor levels hampering the proper functioning of floor scrapers, worsening hoof health and emissions. Wolfenden’s product innovation resolves inadequate flooring issues through their hybrid design, offering the optimum combination of rubber and concrete, and harnessing the intrinsic benefits of both materials for better herd welfare. As the only product available at 16’ lengths, they allow for wider passageways, meaning the greater structural integrity that is necessary for modern, increasingly heavy, farm machinery. Combining hard wearing yet soft rubber material fitting flush with a new non-slip concrete surface, Wolfenden’s Hybrid Slats offer high grip, with maximum comfort.

A quick drying design makes for lower carbon emissions, and ammonia mitigation is a critical issue addressed by Wolfenden’s new Hybrid Slats. Slots in the new flooring reduce emission rates / m2, and a well-drained floor cuts ammonia emissions by up to 50%. For newbuild farms – especially where dairy continues to scale-up in infrastructure – and for farms under environmental scrutiny (an increasing trend with Net Zero targets), investing in Hybrid Slats can assist with planning applications, signalling a forward-thinking approach to bodies such as Natural England.

Richard Moody, managing director at Wolfenden, explains some of the design issues the company needed to overcome – and where Wolfenden’s investment and expertise were recognised by the judges for the benefit of UK dairy farmers,
“As a hybrid product, the normal design issues of working with one medium were compounded – but overcoming these design challenges is testament to the product’s innovation. We needed to ensure enough steel in the product to withstand any axle load, but we also aimed for simplicity. The more nodules made to secure the rubber, the more intricate the mould – complicating the engineering and manufacturing processes – but this precision was critical to the quality of the final product. We created a novel invention to ensure accurate and reliable demoulding, involving hydraulic jacks and an overhead crane – complicated, but ultimately adding only a few minutes to the final process. A significant investment of time and resources means we now have a hard-wearing, long-lasting, quick-drying product, with high grip for great hoof comfort.”

This is not the first time that Wolfenden’s innovations for the dairy sector have been recognised, as their SUPA range was the overall winner of the New Product or Service Innovation Award in 2019. Companies recognised by these Awards are among the most competitive, ambitious, and forward-thinking in the Region, and Wolfenden are delighted to have their innovative products, all with British farming at their core, recognised again with this latest accolade.