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Shield solution to pesticide spray drift wins student national design competition

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Pol Blanch with his winning D-Shield prototype

A Brunel University London student claimed top prize in the UK-wide 2021 Design Innovation in Plastics competition with a product which will help ensure pesticides are applied in the right place, improving safety and reducing costs for farmers. 

The winner, Pol Blanch, studying for a master’s in Integrated Product Design, designed his product to help people in the developing world, after being inspired by his interest in agriculture and the rural issue of how to apply pesticides safely to vital crops. 

The product, D-Shield, is a semi-translucent, foldable shield that minimises spray drift, blocking pesticides from drifting during application. The shield, made from low-density, heat-resistant polypropylene, is designed to be carried by individuals using backpack sprayers, as is often the case in developing countries, where plots are smaller and the expense of agricultural machinery is prohibitive. 

Cost-effective solution

D-Shield was judged to be outstanding in its design and application, as well as addressing a fundamental problem in the environment, in line with the competition’s 2021 theme of ‘Design for a Natural World’. 

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The competition’s chairman of judges, Richard Brown, said: “Pol applied design thinking and conducted extensive research to find a cost-effective solution to a universal problem that threatens both our society and wildlife across the world. His research recognises the scale of the problem and how pesticide overspray damages the natural environment. His product is well designed, and we believe that with some refinement, it is good enough to be commercialised.” 

A delighted Pol said: “I have worked very hard to create this product and am delighted it has received such a positive response. The Design Innovation in Plastics competition has helped instil the value of sustainable design. It has been really rewarding to take a disposable product category and create a reusable solution - this is a trend I would love to continue in my future career.” 

There were two Brunel students in the six-strong final, with Pol’s coursemate Pradip Gurung being highly commended for Stratus: a wildlife collar specially designed to prevent illegal poaching of big cats. Richard commented: “The judges felt that Pradip had researched the problem well and had developed a unique deterrent that, via education, might resolve the problem of wildcat poaching.” 

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Pradip Gurung with his highly commended Stratus

The judge added: “We’d like to congratulate all the finalists for the exceptionally high standard of their designs and presentations. It was clear they had all researched their solutions to the brief very thoroughly. They are a very talented group, and it made the task of selecting the winner very challenging!” 

Depth of design talent

The two Brunel students were among an original entry of more than 150 from all over the UK and Ireland. Pol wins the top prize of a trophy and £1,000; a trip to Leverkusen, Germany, to visit headline sponsor, Covestro; a placement with a DIP sponsor; and an invitation to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet as a guest of the Worshipful Company of Horners. 

Prof Hua Dong, Professor in Design and Dean of the Brunel Design School, said: “Many congratulations to Pol for winning this competition with such a well thought out solution for a pressing agricultural problem. 

“Brunel Design School students have performed well in this competition, placing first and second in 2018, and now with Pol’s win and Pradip being highly commended in 2021. This is a testament to the depth of design talent among Brunel students, and how we help nurture their innovative mindset. I’d like to extend my congratulations to the MSc Integrated Product Design teaching team for their achievements.” 

Design Innovation in Plastics is supported by the Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining, and the Worshipful Company of Horners, and headline sponsored by polymers manufacturer, Covestro. DIP is unique in that it offers an industry placement to all six finalists with one of the competition sponsors, Brightworks, Innovate Product Design, PDD and RJG Technologies, as well as cash prizes.

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