One definition of industrial design is: a methodical way of solving problems with well-conceived products. Sometimes this process happens outside of the design world limelight, by people who have never taken a single Production Methods class or set foot in an ID studio.
Canadian pig farmer Mary Haugh had a problem; multiple heart attacks put her husband out of commission, and she alone had to somehow control and herd their 3,000 hogs through the barn. Traditional methods of getting pigs to move are to use a stick, an electric prod or a "chase board," a length of wood the farmer wields horizontally to angle the pigs in a particular direction.
The stick and the prod, in addition to being inhumane, are simply not practical solutions for a single man/woman vs. 3,000 pigs, and for that many animals Haugh would need an impossibly long board that no human could reasonably lift and wield.
(Click the link below for the rest of the story and video of Haugh's invention!)
While thinking about her problem, Haugh noticed the chase boards the Haughs had stacked up in the barn were bright red--and every time the pigs passed them, they seemed to hesitate. She couldn't lift a 30-foot board, if one even existed, but she could certainly handle that length of fabric. She did some trial runs and noticed that pigs would indeed shy away from a moving red surface, whether solid or fabric.
Haugh then came up with a roller that dispenses a swath of red cloth--a sort of farm version of the retractable "lane guides" that movie theaters use. Working with her brother Peter Jones, a mechanical engineer, she developed a 30-pound stainless steel prototype that retracted fabric like a windowshade and could unspool 50 feet of material. The pair also designed it so one end could attach to existing stabling, enabling one-person operation.
The resulting product rolls up neatly, can easily be carried and deployed by one person, and meets Canadian standards for biosecurity as it can be washed with the pressure washers most farmers already own to clean other equipment. More importantly, it works far better than anything that came before it--testing trials reveal it saves 70% of the time needed to herd hogs, which translates to hours per week.
Dubbed "The Longarm," the device is now available for sale by LMR Inc. Haugh has been contacted by farmers of other animals seeking more human and efficient methods of herding them; poultry and sheep versions are now in the works.