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Robots to boost veggie growers’ tech

Aussie vegetable growers are set to gain a competitive edge with exclusive trials of cutting-edge global machinery under a groundbreaking new program.


The $4.1M initiative will boost the adoption of advanced mechanisation technology in the Australian vegetable industry, reducing the industry’s high input costs and labour challenges that affect grower profitability. 


The program will be delivered by Hort Innovation and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) in partnership with the Global Organisation for Agricultural Robotics (GOFAR) which leads the International Forum of Agricultural Robotics (FIRA).


Hort Innovation chief executive officer Brett Fifield said employing the latest technology was essential in keeping the Australian horticulture sector competitive.


“Hort Innovation plays a role in leading world-class innovation for the horticulture sector, to ensure Australian growers are able to remain globally competitive,” Mr Fifield said.


“This grower-focused program will bring global innovations directly into the hands of veggie growers, so that they can play an active role in trialling the technology and communicating its potential benefits.”


The program is committed to sharing findings with growers across the country, with a jam-packed schedule ahead of field days, showcase events, international study tours, webinars and more for growers to engage directly with the latest equipment and manufacturers.


DAF Director of Vegetables, Systems and Supply Chains Ian Layden said the ultimate goal of the program was to assist growers and the broader industry to adopt field technologies that would make a difference to input costs. 


“Through this program and the collaboration with the Global Organisation for Agricultural Robotics (GOFAR) we are keen to see more growers actively seeking automated and mechanised machinery solutions,” Mr Layden said.


“The grower demonstration sites we establish will provide qualitative and quantitative data to highlight the potential efficiency benefits from mechanised machinery solutions, which we hope will help growers make bolder decisions about the technology they invest in.

“Support for growers to integrate new machinery into their field operations is critical, therefore growers and technology providers will be assisted by project partner Farm Concepts, who will play an important role in implementation. 


“After the success of the Gatton Smart Farm AgTech Showcase in November 2023, we are already supporting Australian-first robotics trials in the Lockyer Valley and this new investment and partnership will continue the vital research and engagement we have with vegetable growers and the global technology community.” 


GOFAR’s co director Gwendoline Legrand is convinced that robots are the new era of ag machinery, and that the Australian industry is primed to adopt technology solutions.


“Through our global networks and knowledge of the technology sector in the US and the EU, GOFAR will provide Australia access to a global network of mechanisation manufacturers and suppliers and machines for Australian growers to trial and optimize,” Mrs Legrand said.

“We will connect growers directly to manufacturers, and other commercial growers who are actively adopting new technology.”


AUSVEG chief executive officer Michael Coote said the vegetable industry had prioritised investment in advancing technology use within the sector.


“The vegetable industry faces high input costs of energy, labour, chemicals and fertilisers which has a dramatic effect on grower profitability,” Mr Coote said.


“We know that technology to address these challenges is out there, but the process of sourcing information, engaging in discussion with manufacturers, importing and trialling machinery is time consuming and costly, which can make it prohibitive to individual growers.


“This program will provide our industry with unparallelled access to engage with the latest available equipment together with the information they need to make informed business decisions.”


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