While global machinery brands grapple with supply issues, an autonomous robotics company is busy scaling up manufacturing and cutting wait times thanks to its Australian-made policy.
SwarmFarm Robotics owner Andrew Bate said by building robots at their on-farm workshop in Emerald, Central Queensland, the company was somewhat shielded by the uncertainty of overseas markets.
"It's great to be in manufacturing. It was like a dirty word two years ago - now it's exciting," Mr Bate said.
"Having sovereign capability in farm machinery is key for food security. Look at how hard it is to get machinery in agriculture right now."
Mr Bate said Australian grain growers and cotton growers were benefitting from autonomy when the rest of world couldn't get it.
"We've built really good supply arrangements with companies that supply key components to us now. We've done that over a three year period now, and our manufacturing has been unaffected - we've been able to actually increase manufacturing."
Similar to the automotive industry, the company sources components from a range of global suppliers and manufactures the final product in CQ using local boilermakers, machinists and assembly workers.
The engine and hydraulics are German, the nozzles are Italian and the computers are Taiwanese.
The robots are generally leased to farmers and other businesses for three years at a cost of $86,000 per year, which includes field service.
SwarmFarm is building two robots a month, will grow to one a week by June, and by December is hoping to have 50 robots working across four states.
Commercially, the robots have worked on 240,000 hectares of farm land, clocked up 40,000 hours, and customers have saved about 550,000 litres of glyphosate in the last year.
They're certainly big milestones, but as SwarmFarm Robotics celebrates its 10th year, Andrew and his wife Jocie say there's plenty more work to be done.
The company has grown to a team of 22 and is now on the lookout for more staff in sales, business development, and field support.
"As we're starting to get more and more inquiry around the country, there's a full time role now just in inquiries for robots, so we're looking for someone to help us grow that side of the business. We're also chasing more boilermakers, machinists and assembly people to get involved," Mr Bate said.
SwarmFarm is also putting the final touches on its auto dock and refill technology, whereby the robots can fill up with chemicals, fertiliser or seed without human assistance.
"The autonomous dock and refill means we can keep machines light and protect our soil and do better controlled traffic systems," Mr Bate said.
It's due for release in the third quarter of this year.
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