Time to embrace the future, now

Time to embrace the future, now


Opinion
LADYBIRDS ARE GO: The Ladybird autonomous robot is one of the developments to come from horticulture's investment into robotics.

LADYBIRDS ARE GO: The Ladybird autonomous robot is one of the developments to come from horticulture's investment into robotics.

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Horticulture will only be better off for embracing robotic technologies.

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EDITORIAL

In each episode of the 1980’s animated cartoon, Transformers, the blue and red semi-trailer named Optimus Prime would cry: "Autobots- roll out!"

It's a bit of a stretch, but in some ways, the horticulture industry is yelling: "Hortobots- roll out!"  

The industry is backing technology to propel it into the future, and there’s nothing cartoon-like about it. 

It's going further than just information gathering and weather prediction on smart phones.

The developments are looking to assist in areas of real concern, like labour.

The launch of the Horticulture Innovation Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems (HICRIS) is a bright sign of the industry's commitment on this front.

Here, some of the country's best minds in robotics will research, develop and build with the ultimate aim of lightening the load on farm workforces.

Some might say farmers are traditionally reluctant to change or embrace new ways of doing things.

A broader view will see that's not true.

Developments in just about every aspect of agriculture, from water winches to computer accountancy programs to mechanised harvesting and tractor-mounted spray rigs, all speak of the farmer's willingness to adapt and improve.

Here is some cutting edge stuff, right on our doorstep.

There are packing sheds throughout the country that have already incorporated robotics into their production lines with large mechanical arms shifting pallets, replacing the work of several employees.

It's stuff from the future, right here, in our now.

There could be another added benefit to handing more work over to computers and automation; less political point-scoring over backpackers, workers and superannuation.

If only some decision makers could be replaced with mechanical equivalents. (A conspiracy theorist might suggest that judging by their less-than-human, by-the-script responses when on camera, some already have been. )

It's not just about robots though.

Horticulture's move toward new methods can be seen in the rise of protected cropping. 

In this sector are some of the most efficient producers doing more with less.

The most prominent example of this at the moment is Sundrop Farms' solar and saltwater-powered facility near Port Augusta, South Australia.

Here is some cutting edge stuff, right on our doorstep.

It will be worth watching how this operates and grows over the years, as a benchmark for what can be achieved with smart thinking.

Then there is the brand new fruit fly trap created by a collaboration between Queensland’s Griffith University and AgNova Technologies. 

It’s the result of some 30 years of research and looks set to be new, and highly effective, weapon against the dreaded pest. 

What other projects are waiting to be green-lit once the right corner of Australia is found and the right determined mind backs it?

Technology might not make life less complex but it is certainly an exciting time to be involved in such a rapidly developing industry. 

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