Major change needed for ag: industry

Major change needed for ag: industry

Machinery
Bencubbin farmer Nick Gillett (right) with The Nationals WA Agricultural Regional MLC Colin de Grussa

Bencubbin farmer Nick Gillett (right) with The Nationals WA Agricultural Regional MLC Colin de Grussa

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While he is a keen supporter of Australian manufacturers, Bencubbin farmer and Nuffield scholar Nick Gillett is also realistic

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WHILE he is a keen supporter of Australian manufacturers, Bencubbin farmer and Nuffield scholar Nick Gillett is also realistic.

Speaking of his experiences and thoughts on the future at last week's annual general meeting, Mr Gillett said the agricultural industry was in need of a major change to continue to be sustainable.

While he lauded Australian manufacturers for designing equipment to suit the nation's conditions, he cited the lack of skilled operators, legislative impediments and the cost of doing business as major roadblocks for the industry.

"I think we're nearly there with machines but the final steps could be onerous," Mr Gillett said.

A realistic time-frame for the adoption of so-called autonomous vehicles in Australia could be within the next 10 years.

Mr Gillett said he did not believe swarm robots would be an answer to broadacre cropping, judging from what he saw during his Grains Research and Development Corporation-supported trip to North America and Europe.

"I think we're probably looking at more conventional sizes rather than golf buggies," he said.

One manufacturer to catch his eye was Canadian-based Dot Technology, located in Saskatchewan.

The company manufactures an autonomous diesel-powered platform which can be used to add spraying, spreading and seeding modules and is a realistic product to provide scale for broadacre farming systems.

It would not be beyond engineering skills to design such platforms and appropriate machines for controlled traffic farming.

"I think that type of scale is probably where we're heading," Mr Gillett said.

"It could be you have three to four to suit your enterprise."

Such technology could be a realistic proposition for Australian farmers within the next three to five years, but it would "depend purely on the cost per hectare".

That cost maybe within reach with a more competitive manufacturing industry, which is likely to reside in North America, purely because of the critical mass of agriculture.

But history has recorded many Australian manufacturers who have 'made it' with their inventions in North America.

Asked about his thoughts on the most innovative nation involved in robotics for agriculture, Mr Gillett nominated Canada.

"The United States has a stack of companies but Canada is the most innovative for agriculture," he said.

Mr Gillett, who owns a Goldacres boomsprayer, two DBS bars and two Gason airseeders, said he was still grappling with labour issues on his farm where he crops 11,100 hectares of wheat, barley, lupins and canola.

"The older guys struggle with the new technology while the younger ones tend to tune out and don't focus," he said.

"With the high cost of machinery you need focused operators because we're pushing machinery to the limit.

"Going forward, as farmers we would hope to see low cost autonomous machinery with the efficiencies that reduce our costs."

"Certainly the buying power of wheat hasn't kept pace with cost increases."

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