Seeds of the future

Seeds of the future

New South Wales Farmers’ Association says it will be a long time before farmers around the country reap the benefits from new robotic farming technology.

On the back of recent state funding, Queensland University of Technology and the Australian Centre for Field Robotics have developed a number of prototypes aimed at increasing crop production and reducing environmental impact.

But Policy Director of NSW Farmers’ Angus Gidley-Baird says the technology is still in the concept stage and it will be a while before it’s available nationally.

He says before the technology becomes available to mainstream Australia, it needs to have an expanded market to make it viable.

“Australia is a front-runner in developing technologies such as this, but the size of our market limits the opportunities from a commercial space.

“The number of farmers in Australia doesn’t quite make the investment return levels they need.

“They need to be looking at exporting into other markets.”

The idea of robots replacing farmers in the field is not a far-fetched idea, with some farms adopting the technology to processes, such as milking cows.

But when it has the power to minimise jobs in the sector, the technology’s not always welcoming.

Mr Gidley-Baird says the biggest challenge for Australian farmers is where the growth will come from.

“The robotic technology has great opportunity from a systems’ perspective, rather than the production side of things.

He says the gains aren’t in the productivity, but the efficiency of the management systems involved.

“It will minimise cost of operations, logistic supply chain and the growing cost of farming.”

So while the technology has great potential to enhance farming processes from a systems’ perspective, the full potential of what the technology will mean for farming production – and that of the people producing it – is unknown.

Agricultural robots are currently being trialled in Queensland, which uses Internet and satellite mapping techniques to program paths for autonomous monitoring and spraying units.


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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