THREE Gold medals for innovative excellence have been awarded in this year's round of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland's Technical Innovation Award scheme.

Those gold awards are also backed by three silver medals and one certificate of commendation under the scheme.

These top awards are only presented to innovations which have shown continuous outstanding merit after winning a previous silver medal. They are: David Ritchie (Implements), of Forfar, for its Combi Clamp sheep handling device; ICE Comfort Slat Mats, of Dublin, for its comfort slat mat; and RGS Forfar, of Forfar, for its ScanStone stone separator.

Ritchie's 'Combi Clamp' is a New Zealand designed device invented by Wayne Coffrey, but made in the UK by Ritchie. It is a sheep handling implement used for dagging, drenching, vaccinating, tagging and foot trimming of sheep and goats.

This labour saving device allows the sheep to run up the race to the clamp to a convenient height to carry out the required tasks without any back-breaking, manhandling of the sheep.

ICE Comfort Slat's comfort slats were invented and manufactured by the company and is claimed to be the only patented mat in the world that addresses both animal welfare and the environment. It's 'Green Floor System' is said to reduce cattle lameness, increase weight gain and milk yield, is hard wearing and the floor is cleaner and dryer than with any other mat.

RGS Forfar's ScanStone machine is an open fronted stone separator invented by Gordon Skea and Gary Rae and manufactured by RGS, which has large front intake discs, which are hydraulically controlled. This allows a consistent feed in of soil, which in turn allows the machine to deliver high output particularly in dry conditions.

Specific engineering and design features on the position of the webs and share gave it that all-important award-winning combination.

The three Silver medals have been awarded to: McVeigh Parker and Co, Biggar, for the 'Clipex Fence', a quick clip all steel post that is the latest innovation in stock fencing; Murray Machinery, from Ellon, for its Octa-Quad bale handling system', that transports 12 big round bales or six big square bales on any large tractor and loader; and a recently launched product from SoilEssentials, Brechin, the 'Essentials Root Yield', which allows growers to measure and yield map root crops accurately and easily. This is SoilEssentials' third Silver Medal since it was founded 15 years ago.

Lastly, a certificate of commendation has been awarded to McAllisters, of Patrickson, for its Wombat pot hole repairing machine, which is designed to repair Tarmac and gravel type farm and forest roads. It has the ability to be mounted as a hydraulic attachment to backhoe excavators, agricultural tractors and skid steer loaders.

As always, the awards - sponsored by the Hillhouse Quarry Group, which has just signed up for a further three years of sponsorship - attracted a high number of entries.

With a remit to reward innovation in the design and manufacture of machines, equipment and appliances, the awards are the oldest presented by the RHASS, which gave its first 'premium' for an implement in 1793 to a 'new-invented plough of an improved construction adapted for the culture of Highland farms.'

RHASS chief steward, John Mackie, said: "There is no doubt that these awards are held in high esteem, judging by the impressive number of quality entries received again this year.

The society is delighted to be in a position to award medals and commendations to these companies who have demonstrated commitment to innovation and design. We wish them well."

The awards' panel members were: Christo Shepherd, Jimmy Dunlop, Robert Maitland, Clark Stewart, JD McWilliam and Tom Arnott.