Draadsitter takes stand on poachers
An innovation by an electrical engineer in Pretoria to curb cattle theft and rhino poaching has put him in the running for the inaugural Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. It was early one morning about two years ago after visiting a farmer friend that Ernst Pretorius, 43, thought of the Draadsitter (fence-sitter in Afrikaans) - a device that detects if a fence up to 800m away is being tampered with and sets off an alarm.The system gives farmers the opportunity to catch criminals while they are still on the property and before they do any damage, by determining their precise location.A thermometer installed in the device also enables the Draadsitter to warn of fires."There is a lot of cruelty involved with cattle theft, and, because I love animals, I agreed to help," Pretorius said."There's also a big need for the device in combating rhino poaching and protecting wildlife and the livestock of small farmers."The Draadsitter works off batteries that last up to three years and it is not affected by harsh weather or set off by lightning.One sensor is estimated to cost about R6600. If the sensors are mounted on wiring posts spaced 200m apart, a 10km fence would cost around R330000.Pretorius has received more than 200 inquiries since his nomination. He has demonstrated the sensors at various farms, nature reserves, mines and industrial premises locally and abroad.The Draadsitter is in pre-production phase and is expected to be rolled out by mid-year.Pretorius and the three other finalists from sub-Saharan Africa will present their innovations to a panel of judges in June.The winner will walk away with £25000 (R365825) and £10000 (R182912) will be awarded to each of the runners-up.