Digital Farmhand ploughs farms of future

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities The Honourable Mark Furner

Farms of the future are being trialled at Gatton in a ground-breaking first for Queensland horticulture.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities Mark Furner said the Queensland Government had welcomed agricultural robotics company Agerris to establish its operations in Queensland and demonstrate its automated farming platform.

“Agerris’s ground-breaking Digital Farmhand has real potential to revolutionise farming, which is exciting news for Queensland’s producers,” Mr Furner said.

“In a challenging environment where growers face multiple issues including water and land availability, labour shortages, and chemical use, the Digital Farmhand is a game changer in delivering sustainable farming and food security.

“Many of these challenges can be solved by integrating robotic technology into best farming practices to deliver truly smart farms.”

Mr Furner said primary production was an important part of Queensland’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan, and he is delighted to see Agerris’s impressive technology being further developed.

“Having Agerris at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Gatton Research Facility has already benefitted the local community,” Mr Furner said.

“Agerris is providing local support and has employed two local staff to work with growers in the Lockyer and Fassifern valleys, with more expansion planned for later this year.

“Particularly pleasing is that, already, several local growers have entered into discussions with Agerris to use the Digital Farmhand machines on their farms.”

Agerris CEO Salah Sukkarieh said installing the Digital Farmhand at DAF’s Gatton Research Facility and with local growers would provide valuable data for future generations of the platform.

“Digital Farmhand is already Agerris’s most versatile robotic platform but using it in local conditions will allow us to optimise its functionality,” Mr Sukkarieh said.

“Digital Farmhand can precisely and mechanically remove weeds as it travels along the vegetable beds, with future plans to include individual plant spraying, thinning, and harvesting depending on the needs of the farmer.

“It is mobile, solar-electric, easy-to-run, and can operate in autonomous mode which adds up to considerable benefits to growers.”

Lockyer Valley vegetable farmer Brock Sutton, of Sutton Farms, said he saw real potential in developing the Digital Farmhand technology for his farming system.

“The key feature for us is the flexibility in the application of this platform – an unmanned vehicle that can carry out field operations but also have precision agriculture technology mounted on it,” Mr Sutton said.

“It could be used to reduce crop inputs such as herbicides and insecticides through more targeted application and also provide us with more information about our crops.

“The unmanned aspect is attractive, because it provides flexibility of what time of day and conditions it can be deployed in, above what we currently rely on.”

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