Massive turnout for GPS seminar

11 Aug, 2004 10:00 PM

MORE than 300 WA farmers were at Corrigin last week to examine the latest in GPS autoguidance technology and to scrutinise the merits of numerous guidance units available in Australia.

The agriguidance seminar was held by the Corrigin Farm Improvement Group and the massive turnout proved WA farmers were embracing technology at a rapid rate.

It is a competitive market, with more than 46 guidance units available.

The leaders in guidance products had an opportunity to promote the benefits of their products.

Exhibitors answered questions ranging from the price of a guidance system to the accuracy of autosteering.

Kondinin Group engineer Ben White said Australia was leading the world in the adoption and development of guidance technology.

Mr White said with all the jargon about accuracy, guidance could get pretty confusing for farmers.

He said an investment of $5000-$30,000 for a visual guidance system did have its benefits.

³Cost will reflect on a lot of features a system may have,² he said.

Minimising overlap, precision placement of chemicals, reduced operator fatigue and more efficient night operations were all positive outcomes of a visual guidance system, he said.

³And as with most technology, things will become cheaper in the future,² he said.

Mr White predicted the future of guidance would have integrated wireless technology, standard connections and total compatibility with all systems.

³In the not to distant future we may see small autonomous vehicles and lots of them,² he said.

However, ConsultAg consultant David Sermon warned WA farmers not to get caught up in the wave of technology because buying a guidance system did not solve all problems.

³You don¹t necessarily need to have the best equipment to make money,² Mr Sermon said.

Over the last three years WA farmers¹ machinery investment had risen from $175ha to $200ha.

Research showed farmers with more money invested in newer machinery had higher repair costs, Mr White said.

He said guidance did not solve problems like poor soil nutrition and chemical resistance.

³Guidance doesn¹t put the crop in for you, it doesn¹t drive around the paddock and detect weeds for you, and it doesn¹t harvest the crop and cart it to the bins,² Mr Sermon said.

It did however, play a vital role in maximising on-farm agronomy and utilising the paddock to its fullest potential.

Guidance was just one component in the overall farming picture, Mr Sermon said.

He said there were benefits using guidance but farmers needed to look at prioritising farm tasks.

There was no point in spending $50,000 on autosteer in a tractor when it still took the farmer six weeks to put the crop in, he said.

Mr Sermon encouraged a gradual approach to adopting autoguidance on the farm.

³Don¹t go the whole hog in one go, don¹t start taking all the fence lines down, knocking trees down and going to variable rate technology all in the one year,² he said.

³Some people have tried it and I wish them the best of luck.²

Mr Sermon said farmers need to focus on the whole crop production package not just on individual factors.



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