Enter the age of robots
FORMER Premier Campbell Newman can see a time in the not-too-distant future when robots will be used to stalk and kill weeds on farms across the North.
He visualises a future when lightweight, automated robots are doing everything from planting seeds to fertilising crops, spot-spraying weeds, killing bugs and even harvesting fruit and veges.
“Robots have the potential to completely change the way that we farm and the way we grow all sorts of crops, whether that’s grain, vineyards, orchards or sugar cane,” he said.
“This sort of technology will give us the opportunity to very significantly increase production. It will reduce the use of chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides and fertilisers because you can more precisely place the chemicals where they’re needed to do the job.”
He’s speaking as chairman of Queensland start-up SwarmFarm Robotics, a post he took up a few months after his party was swept from office in the January 31 election.
Mr Newman’s passion for this Star Wars type technology is clear. So is his resoluteness that his political life is well and truly over. He’ll tell you straight up he’s much happier channelling his inner geek.
Mr Newman will be in Townsville on November 19 to address the Redefining Townsville forum, a debate series being run by the
in conjunction with JCU to unlock the potential of this region.
His message will be simple: Ag robots are a reality, they work and they’re likely to be crawling around a cane farm near you within a few years.
“Our vision is that in five years’ time, farmers in cane will be using these robots to do a multitude of tasks ... We think we can give cane farmers the ability to be more efficient, viable, make more money and reduce impacts on the environment.”
He said SwarmFarm was currently commissioning its third prototype robot and planned to start commercial trials on grain farms around Emerald in Central Queensland early next year.
“You will see a fleet of three to six robots working together completely autonomously, going for about 50 hours without human intervention, doing jobs in paddocks in Queensland,” he said.
“We intend to approach farmers who are interested in this new technology and say ‘let us come along and undertake weed control on your farm under contract’. We will come in, set up the robots and they’ll find weeds and spray them.”
Asked if North Queensland farmers were ready for this sort of technology, Mr Campbell said: “Farmers will be understandably and justifiably sceptical because they see people peddling new ideas and technology all the time and a heck of a lot of it doesn’t work.
“They have to be convinced and that’s why we’re doing the trials in this way.”
The Redefining Townsville – Digital Townsville event will be at the Townsville Civic Theatre on November 19.
A SwarmFarm Robotics machine . . . commercial trials start early next year