MEET the man who keeps cotton pickers picking. Roger North, the Goondiwindi farmer turned mechanic, built an impressive business keeping the fibre producing industry on track.
Goondi Picker Services came to life after he carried out a kit service on the front end of his own John Deere machine in the early 1980s.
"Other blokes around the district started asking me who did the work," Mr North said.
"When I said 'I did' they then started asking me to look at their machines.
"As soon as started taking in my mates' machines, I found I had more work than I knew how to handle. And it kept coming."
At its peak in the early 1990s, Goondi Picker Services was employing nine staff and rebuilding up to 90 machines in a year. However, with the level of advanced technology in the machines, staffing levels have been reduced to three.
"We leave the technology, and the rest of the machine, to the manufacturer," Mr North said.
"Now we just focus on the front end - the spindles and doffers - which really haven't ever changed in terms of technology.
"That part of the machines is subject to the most wear and tear and gives us more than enough work to keep us busy."
Mr North said it cost anywhere from $70,000 to $85,000 to rebuild the front end of high-use machine.
Mr North said the technology of picking cotton - at least in the front end of the machines - remained relatively unchanged.
"The spindles and the doffers are still just about the same as the very first machines developed in the 1930s," Mr North said.
"The spindles only grip one way, pulling the cotton away from the open boll as they spin. The doffers go the other direction and take it off as smooth as you like.
"From there the cotton is all carried by air before it is rolled into the bale.
"The biggest difference is probably the spindles went from cast iron to aluminium in early 1970s."
Mr North said probably the biggest difference was in the size and price of the machines.
In the 1970s, a two-row machine was valued at about $60,000.
The latest six-row John Deere machine is closer to $1.5 million.
"It's unreal the difference in price," Mr North said. "But so is the productivity."
Now his focus is on the front end of the massive machines, ensuring the spindle units and doffers are in perfect working order.
Mr North is also well known for his work restoring old vehicles, in particular the more than 40 WWII Jeeps that have passed through his workshop.
His latest project is a 1944 Ford-manufactured Jeep sourced from the Boomi area, which had initially seen service in the US Army before being used by Australian forces.
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