If Gindie farmers-turned-robot manufacturers, Andrew and Jocie Bate have their way, the Central Highlands will be swarming with robots this summer.
The founders of Swarm Farm Robotic Agriculture have just made four robotic spray rigs available for contracting and said interest in the aptly named, Swarmbot3, has been high.
The couple hosted about fifty farmers on an AgForce grains industry tour to their property, Bendee, outside Gindie south of Emerald, last Friday where they revealed that four Swarmbots were now available for contracting.
Another fifty machines are on the drawing board, for next financial year.
“At this stage we will be contracting the four Swarmbots out together and just charging on a per hectare basis as you would for a normal contractor sprayer,” Jocie Bate told Friday’s tour group.
“It is exciting to be finally at this point after so many years. This process is really about taking the machines out and proving them. We are ready for that now.”
Giving fellow farmers a practical demonstration of the ‘swarm’ on the Bendee cultivation last week showed just how close commercial production is for the Bate family.
The 8-meter machines weigh just 1500kg and use cameras to spot spray weeds.
This process is really about taking the machines out and proving them.
Andrew Bate said because the Swarmbots travelled at a slower speed than conventional sprayers, they are better able to target their chemical application.
“It’s about being light and simple and apply chemical more accurately and efficiently,” he said.
“Spot spraying gets better at slower speeds because the cameras can detect the weeds better.”
Still, with four bots whizzing around a paddock, Andrew said they can cover 250ha in ten hours.
“They work better as a swarm rather than just one machine,” he said.
The AgForce grains industry tours both focused on the achievements of individual business in the Emerald region, and covered plenty of ground, heading as far out of town as Goonoo Feedlot, Comet.
The Ag Landscape in CQ Tour operated separately to the Women in Ag tour, with attendees heading to CQ Compost, Goonoo Feedlot and then to Swarm Farm. Guest speakers Maurie Conway (DAF) and Nigel Burnett (grower), also spoke on the Ag Landscape tour.
Meanwhile the women’s tour heard from Theodore’s Fleur Anderson, Emerald’s Liz Alexander (CHDC), and Glenn Pearmine, Gleniecy Table Grape Farm while also visiting the Emerald Green Turf farm.
The groups came together at the end of the day for the Grains Industry Gala Dinner, attended by 200 guests.