THE small orange unit makes its way off the special pad and begins its lawn cutting duty without question or complaint.
Over the course of an hour and a half, it takes the top off the blades of grass which make up the lawn, keeping it trim and neat.
When it's done, it finds its way home from wherever it is in the yard back to the docking station.
If it's raining, it doesn't go out, staying docked and dry.
One might expect this sort of technology to be on display at a gardening expo or technology conference.
Instead, it's happening right there, installed within a suburban backyard (and front yard) within regional Australia.
The future, for this homeowner at least, seems to have arrived.
It's a small version of the growing day-to-day adoption of automatic robotics and machinery, something agriculture is embracing.
Within that, horticulture appears to be in the box seat to witness the increased spread of such technology.
Where once prototypes and demonstration models of self-guiding orchard bots made a good headline and captured trade show attention, now start-up commercial businesses are offering their services.
The general requirements for picking individual fruits of varying size poses a few technical difficulties but this hurdle should, in the long run, see adoption of problem-solving tech within the hort sector that can only get more streamlined and accurate.
Recent figures show rural producers aren't shy in investing in machinery.
According to the Tractor and Machinery Association of Australia more than 18,000 new tractors were sold in 2021.
A full-year rise of 25 per cent was recorded on the year prior.
There have been reports of the used machinery market also running hot, possibly due to COVID-19 induced supply issues.
The point is, where once a farmer might have made a decision between a new ATV or seeder or tractor or harrow, very soon that investment option might include a spray drone or weed-targeting robot or fruit picking machine.
In fact the money put into such devices may have an even greater payback than the standard items.
How long will it be before there is a "used market" for such currently high-tech equipment?
Seems a bit far off at this point but the same thing was probably said about tractors back in the day.
Most growers probably don't have the time to stop and ponder the situation but it is an exciting time to be in agriculture, witnessing the birth and refinement of new devices and new systems.
The pressures on horticulture, particularly labour costs or lack of workers, has sped up the interest and investment in the automated sector.
Ultimately, that will be a good thing.
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