INVENTOR, innovator, farmer and community-minded, down to earth good Aussie bloke are terms that have been widely used to sum up Ray Harrington OAM.
The agricultural devotee, still farming at Darkan at 72 years young, has just been named the 64th inductee into the Royal Agricultural Society of WA's (RASWA) Agricultural Hall of Fame.
The presentation was made by the Governor of Western Australia, Kim Beazley AC, and RASWA president Paul Carter at a luncheon at the RASWA showgrounds on Tuesday, which fittingly featured award-winning WA produce from the RASWA food awards and was sponsored by Wesfarmers.
While clearly chuffed with the recognition, Mr Harrington was quick to point out the critical involvement of a number of collaborators and family along the way, in particular an emotional thanks to his two brothers David and Doug.
"David and I dreamt up these things while sitting around banging our gums and when Doug came home from a stint in the army he brought fresh eyes to our concepts," Mr Harrington said.
'These things' took three main avenues - firstly sheep handling products, then no-till farming and dare we say finally (probably not knowing Ray Harrington), weed resistance in cropping.
The proliferation of inventions over five decades of farming has included the Harrington Crutching Cradle, the Harrington Sheep Jetting Race and the Harrington Vee Sheep Handling Machine, devices for improving efficiency and reducing physical work in handling sheep.
In cropping circles it was the Agmaster Harrington No-Till points to provide more sustainable cultivation and moisture conservation in potentially fragile soils and then the industry biggie, the integrated Harrington Seed Destructor, taking the world by storm for its impact in reducing chemical reliance and herbicide resistance.
"We didn't set out to make money, just to improve productivity and sustainability on farms," Mr Harrington said.
"With the sheep gear we were running 25,000 sheep at the time and when you're lugging 20 tonnes of meat in and out of the yards every day, we needed something to take the 'irk' out of sheep work.
"With the help of Rob Glenn and my brother Doug we ended up bringing the products to market and I'm happy to say they are still being manufactured in Darkan today."
The no-till concepts evolved from a need to combat water erosion and other soil issues.
"We knew we couldn't do away with cultivation in cropping but we had to do it better and that meant cultivating below the seed leaving plenty of soil above," he said.
"I probably held the first no-till presentation in the world, at Corrigin, and a guy called Steve King heard it.
"He rang his cousins, mining industry engineers, Mike and Geoff Glenn in Collie and said find those blokes, this is the system I need to use on my farm.
"They formed Agmaster and became big promoters of no-till, holding field days all around the country.
"They sold the concept and the gear sold itself."
In 1994, not long after Mr Harrington began farming in his own right and wool crashed from $13/kg to $2.04/kg per kilogram, he sold all of his sheep.
"I predicted wool would not come good for 20 years," he said.
"I was wrong, it took 19 years.
"Now (going to all cropping) I had to combat herbicide resistance and somehow stop weeds setting seed or find a way to put the seed somewhere else," Mr Harrington said.
"That meant killing, catching, carting, crushing or cremating them, anything to break the cycle."
Two fortunate events followed which led to the evolution of his concept.
"Geoff Glenn found an old Stedman cage mill crusher which had been used in the mining industry at Collie and we knew nothing could survive a pulverising in it.
My mate Ron Knapp and I set about building the first seed destruction unit with it.
"And I met professor Stephen Powles, now probably the world authority on herbicide resistance, at a meeting at Kojonup."
"That was the start of years of testing and analysing the effectiveness of our weed seed kill between Mr Powles and (Dr) Mike Walsh at UWA."
Their work led to the refinement of the integrated Harrington Seed Destructor (iHSD) and ultimately commercialisation of the machine now in demand nationally and internationally.
"We are now getting up to 98 per cent weed seed kill, even with plants with seeds like dust such as fleabane," Mr Harrington said.
Given the destructor's path to commercial reality was largely funded by GRDC, Mr Harrington said he had handed over the intellectual property to the organisation meaning it was now effectively owned by Australian farmers.
Mr Beazley applauded Mr Harrington's efforts in finding welcome solutions to problems in Australian agriculture including the $2.5 billion cost to WA agriculture from weed resistance issues.
"The character of this country is to roll up our sleeves and getewew on with it, exactly what Ray Harrington has continued to do," Mr Beazley said.
"Our farmers have been the most innovative in the world and it was agriculture that provided the existence for the CSIRO, our original organisation for innovation and invention."
The luncheon was followed by the official unveiling of the portraits of last year's inductees Emeritus professor Alan Robson AO and the late Eric Farleigh, formerly of Boyup Brook.