THE Farm Machinery & Industry Association (FMIA) is making education a priority this year.
More accurately, precision farming education.
Alarmingly, as FMIA executive officer John Henchy points out, there is no dedicated precision farming course being taught in Western Australia.
"There's no higher education institution that has anything in its syllabus on precision farming apart from maybe using some of the collected data as a management tool," John said.
"But there is nothing being done to help the student understand the fundamentals of machinery operation involved in precision ag.
"And this is at a time when precision farming is on an exponential pathway with potential to help increase the nation's wealth well beyond the $60 billion the ag industry contributed to last year's gross domestic product.
"With the re-structuring of TAFE colleges in WA, it is timely to push for precision farming as an agenda item," John said.
"There are now three TAFE colleges in regional areas and from an apprenticeship perspective, we're already negotiating with two of them to adopt the national Certificate III qualification."
Called AUR30416-Certificate III in Agricultural Mechanical Technology, John said it had been taught in the eastern States for three years but only two WA RTO's (Registered Training Organisations) had bothered to scope it.
"It's a course tailored for our industry and while it's not perfect, it's a start in the right direction," he said.
"It doesn't include precision farming as a core subject, so if this doesn't change we are seeking to make it a stand-alone Certificate IV course.
"That's what our industry wants, and it's not just for apprentices.
"We want an opportunity for everybody involved in learning about agriculture to be exposed to precision farming because there's no connect at the moment between the technology and learning about it.
"We don't want graduates coming out of colleges ready for a career in ag and having no idea about how precision ag fits into the industry."
John said the FMIA was "talking with everybody" about the need for higher education in ag, specifically precision farming.
"We're lobbying for degree courses at our universities to emphasise the importance of professional career pathways in agriculture because that's where agriculture is heading," he said.
"We've got drones and robots on the horizon and we're not too far away from robots picking fruit and tractors operating without drivers.
"This technology push is demanding higher education and we can't afford to plod along.
"Our members are pushing a professional approach to agriculture and investing millions of dollars to back up their belief in the industry and they need people who are well trained and educated in our profession.
"That's why we need to push for education at all levels."
Maybe the pollies could go back to class as well.
An old chestnut
TORQUE spent some time with John last week discussing industry issues, including the old chestnut, telematics, or wireless communication.
"Here we have some magnificent technology available that can add considerable wealth to the industry and we're hamstrung by a poor communications network," John said.
"This further inhibits the rapidly-growing world of data collection for a range of uses.
"The simple question of the source of the data is very relevant but if farmers are struggling to relay their data-gathering from cab displays, it automatically slows the process, to what many might regard as irrelevant.
"There is so much potential with telematics to further enhance existing technologies and improve economic wealth."
It's an issue that clearly is not going away but the political process will keep it as an issue until there is an understanding that the ag industry is talking about business practices, not social media attractions.
Hello, we're talking about driving up the nation's wealth.
Boya unveils new generator
THE boys at Boya Equipment this week sent Torque a review of the new Kubota GL6000 Prime Generator.
It's a timely introduction of the new product, particularly as budgets are being done to sort out wants from needs.
And with the State's power grid system still not fail-safe, a generator is a must-have on every farm.
According to Boya, the GL6000 features a compact design thanks to the direct coupling of the engine crankshaft with the cooling fan.
The unit is also noticeably smaller than most generators in its class, despite having a large capacity 28 litre fuel tank.
The Prime Generator also offers a quieter operation with built-in muffler, long air-cleaner hose and improved inlet vent design.
It is powered by a Kubota D722-EB, water-cooled, one-phase diesel engine that's considered more efficient than previous models.
The 28L fuel tank can also create enough power to support long continuous operation on a single tank.
Additionally, Kubota diesel engines incorporate a TVCS combustion system which improves air/fuel mixture, resulting in cleaner emissions.
The unit's general efficiency has also been increased thanks to the machine's design where the generator and the engine are directly coupled to ensure a more reliable power supply with minimum power loss.
Meanwhile, the equipment also includes double circuit protectors, protective cover, and automatic shutdown system for optimum safety in the workplace.
Thanks for the review. A neat way to get the message across.
* More information: 9302 2006.
Championing common sense
TORQUE awards a big gong to the FMIA for its continued efforts to educate our bureaucrats that life beyond the Darling Scarp is fundamentally different.
"It will be a big focus this year to lobby the Department of Transport, Mains Roads, Western Power and WorkSafe," John said.
Topics will include the ability of over width tractors and harvesters to tow equipment, axle loadings, height permit issues, on-road speeds for farm vehicles, et al.
"We need to continually remind government departments about the changing nature of agriculture," John said.
"Old laws, some over 40 years old, and perceptions are inhibiting the industry's progress so we need to educate the agencies.
"The good news is that they are listening to us and are working closely with us and they understand where we are coming from."
Torque is tempted to ask FMIA to become a peak farmer body because its influence extends to the Eastern States with submissions to Federal Government agencies drawing praise from the Tractor and Machinery Association (TMA), of which the FMIA is a board member.
Who else is going to bat for ag?