A world-first robot designed to work with others to spray crops in swarms, and ultimately help to fill the rural labour shortage, has been launched in central Queensland. Source: ABC News
Former Queensland premier Campbell Newman, who joined SwarmFarm Robotics following last year’s election loss, attended the launch at a farm in Emerald, along with 300 people.
The autonomous robots are the brainchild of SwarmFarm founder Andrew Bate, who dreamt up the idea while driving his heavy tractor through his wheat paddock.
The gist of the idea is that instead of large tractors and sprayers, farmers can use “swarms” of autonomous, collision-avoiding robots that can spray with accuracy.
Mr Bate said the cutting-edge technology, five years in the making, was now ready for the commercial market.
“We are doing world-first stuff here,” he said. “This is industry changing. We aren’t automating stuff, we are creating robotics systems, and it’s a whole new playing field that we are moving onto. “
He said the technology has already brought numerous engineers and scientists out into regional Australia, a trend he can see developing further.
“We’ve had several people comment that they’ve love to come and join us because we are doing real robots,” he said.
“We’re dragging guys out of Sydney out to these rural areas and they can’t get here quick enough and they are really enjoying the work they’re doing.
“I think it’s quite exciting, we’ve got these young students that are really keen to do internships.”
Mr Newman said the robots would solve the issue of finding farm labour while creating more technical jobs in regional areas.
“I see more jobs, new jobs, exciting, technical jobs supporting robots across this country and across the world,” he said.
Mr Newman hoped the new technology would encourage more high school students to consider careers in agriculture.
“We’ve got young people from metropolitan Sydney who are really excited about the prospect of coming to central Queensland,” he said.
“Let’s be frank: they probably haven’t heard of Emerald before.
“One thing I’d say to young people contemplating that is there will be a big future in this.”
Tom Wyatt is in his third year of mechatronics at Western Sydney University. He said the lure of working with agricultural robots drew him to central Queensland, where he would be happy to return to after he graduates.
“The sky is the limit,” he said. “There are plenty of things coming through in the sensor and actuator fields… so once these robots are up and running, we will be able to mount all sorts of things to them.
“It will bring a lot of reliability to the industry, hopefully. Instead of having a huge reliance on massive machinery of big machines, you can have a number of these scalable robots.
“It’s bringing diversity into rural towns, it’s bringing exciting new minds into agriculture.
“Also, hopefully the price will come down. It’ll make things much cheaper, much more liquid, there’ll be huge benefits, especially logistically.”