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Gate innovation saves marriages, wins award

A Wairarapa shearer turned inventor and business owner has won first place at the Southland Field Days’ Innovation Awards.

Stock EZY’s Sean Blenkin entered the No.8 Wire competition and won the first prize of $500 with his flow control gate earlier this week.

Blenkin was previously runner-up at South Island Agricultural Field Days in 2021 when his invention aimed at “making things easier for farmers” first hit the market.

No stranger to stockyards, thanks to working as a shearer for 15 years, his experiences inspired him to begin tinkering with a sheep gate design in 2020.

“I would be the one at the back of the yards getting yelled at to keep the sheep flowing and stop jamming,” Blenkin said.

“I decided I was going to do something about it.”

Blenkin said it took six months of going back and forth with several very cooperative Wairarapa farmers “whenever they had sheep” in order to make the many tweaks required to ensure the product was ready for market.

Blenkin said the flow-control gate allows sheep to merge like a zip into a single file for a more consistent flow, solving the bottleneck jamming in sheep yards.

The length of the “very basic” and “very simple” gate can be adjusted according to the stock and is spring-loaded, which makes it return to the centre when sheep enter through.

The invention aids sizing and earmark drafting, which saves on time and labour, putting less stress on the farmer, stock and dogs, he said.

In 2021, as New Zealand went into a Covid-19 level 4 lockdown, Blenkin opened an agricultural equipment business, Stock EZY, in Masterton with his wife Maire.

The gates are manufactured in Wairarapa with 2K Design & Manufacturing Engineers, and Blenkin installs them himself.

Since launching the business, he has installed about 50 gates in Wairarapa and more than 150 gates in New Zealand.

“It’s really started to take off now, but for the first couple of years, it was in the negative,” he said.

However, Blenkin said he’s not motivated by the financial gain but “the satisfaction of clients telling me how much easier it has made things for them in the yard”.

“I have rung out farmers to see how the gate is going, and if I get the wife on the phone, I have had the reply, ‘Well, it saved our marriage’.”

Blenkin said another farmer told him the gate has made a “huge difference” since he installed it.

“Our husband-and-wife relationship has been the best it’s ever been in the yard,” the farmer said.

Blenkin’s first invention was the Stock EZY cradle for pregnant ewes, which is different from other models on the market due to it being designed for “today’s sheep”, he said.

His wife, Maire, does the sewing and manufacturing of the ewe cradles.

Blenkin’s second invention was a foldaway wool fadge pack holder used in the 60th Golden Shears event in Masterton in 2020.

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