Unique agricultural invention to boost productivity

By: Carene Chong

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A team of inventors has come up with a robotic tractor and seeding machine which they claim has unprecedented planting accuracy and allows cropping on 20 per cent more land, hence improving agricultural productivity.

Unique agricultural invention to boost productivity
This "Smart Seeder", developed by a team of inventors at UNSW could very well be the future of farming.

The research team from University of New South Wales (UNSW) was a finalist in the 2012 Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology and is currently working with the Grains Research Development Corporation (GRDC) to pursue further development and commercial production.

According to UNSW, the machine is a lighter, more affordable agricultural machine that can accurately follow and plant seeds along a predefined path without a human operator.

Associate Professor Jay Katupitiya from the UNSW School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering says the system has the ability to lay seeds within one to two cm of lateral accuracy on rough agricultural terrain, which he says is an unprecedented level of precision for an autonomous machine.

He says achieving this precision with existing technology has been a challenge due to the forces generated by plough digging into soil, causing seeding implements to veer off course.

However, advanced control systems and sensors, and an optimised design enable the UNSW invention to automatically correct against these deviations.

"Our unique design and technology allows farmers to know exactly where their crop is," Katupitiya says.

"It means the same machine can be used repeatedly throughout the cropping season to carry out all other subsequent tasks, such as weeding, fertilising and growth monitoring."

Katupitiya says another huge problem broad acre farmers face is crop lines created by expensive large tractors compacting the soil as they move, which in turn renders roughly 20 per cent of land on large paddocks unusable. This means cropping must happen in the same direction every year, which degrades soil health.

He says the UNSW developed machine which measures just three metres wide is a more affordable and lightweight option for farmers which does not create crop lines.

"The flexibility of being able to access more land and plant crops in different directions has advantages for crop growth through better uptake of remnant nutrients, and a better yield."

Watch the video demo on UNSW's Youtube channel.

Click to browse tillage and seeding equipment for sale on TradeFarmMachinery.com.au.

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