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Farm machinery to get both bigger and smaller as efficiency continues to drive innovation in agriculture

Farm machinery in Western Australia will continue to get both bigger and smaller as efficiency drives innovation in agriculture.

It is no secret that for the past decade Aussie farms have been getting bigger and so has farm machinery.

Eighteen-metre header fronts and 27-metre seeding bars are no longer uncommon in Western Australia, with producers choosing to rip out fences and crop boundary to boundary.

Research engineer for Kondinin group, Ben White, routinely tests new gadgets that come onto the farming market and said the future of farm machinery is very exciting.

“Things like UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles or drones), people are talking about a lot at crop updates and just a general efficiency drive,” he said.

“That might involve anything from gear getting wider, to machinery getting more efficiency in its delivery of power, so tractor engine improvements, transmission improvements and just seeing a lot of those little bits coming together go give us the next step I suppose, in efficiency on farm.

“I think we will continue to see efficiencies increase whether that’s through improvements in engine technology or drive lines.

“Things like locomotives have been using diesel electric for a long time and perhaps some of that technology will come across to farming.”

‘Bigger is Better’

While controlled traffic farming and robotics may be pushing future machinery smaller, the common mentality out in paddocks now is “bigger is better”.

Pete McCann, from machinery manufacturer Case IH, said that means their immediate focus is on increasing horsepower, to tow wider implements.

But, he agrees that ultimately, efficiency is king.

“There will be product progression with higher horsepower, but still trying to keep that efficiency, or use that horsepower to 110 per cent of it’s ability, instead of kind of pushing it out of the exhaust and while you’re doing that you’re obviously pushing out dollars as well,” he said.

“I would expect we will go wider with our implement while we will see a move towards more efficient transmissions, a move away from our older power shift side of it, again to keep efficiencies up especially because fuel isn’t going to go down.

“And I think our farmers will embrace autonomous, Australia is a long way down the track from other countries.”

From very large to small and specific

Robots are already infiltrating the Agricultural sector with auto steer and weed seeker systems drawing on advanced technology and knowledge.

Mark Calleija, Systems Engineer at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, said robotics is a very broad term and means different things to different people.

“At the moment we already have manned systems with an element of robotics and autonomy build into them, now what we are seeing is unmanned vehicles coming into the scene,” he said.

“What you are not going to see is a humanoid robot out in the field, what you will see is a task specific engineered solution out there, it really depends on what it is trying to do.”

Mr Calleijai has been working on a prototype called the ladybird which includes a robotic arm to manually remove weeds.

“Mechanical weeding is our primary focus at the moment but we have proven that we can significantly reduce herbicide use by precision spot spraying.”

(Source – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-29/state-of-tomorrow-farm-machinery-future/6507094)

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