AVO GO: Universal Field Robots founder Jeff Sterling with a robotic avocado picker that attaches to the yellow machine behind him.
AVO GO: Universal Field Robots founder Jeff Sterling with a robotic avocado picker that attaches to the yellow machine behind him. Mark Cranitch

AVO GO: Robots picking path to Bundy farm trials

THERE'S no doubt robots will soon be part of everyday life, but the future of robotic farming it seems it just around the corner.

Owner of Donovan Family Investments Lachlan Donovan said the technology was something he was definitely interested in.

"We'd certainly look at trialling that, we're always looking at that technology," Mr Donovan said.

"Labour is a major part of our expenses and robots that can help us be efficient and compete on a world stage are definitely a consideration."

Mr Donovan said the trials would be suitable if completed in the next few months as the avocado season was drawing to a close, but said it was technology worth investing his time into.

"Our harvesting season will be over in a few months, and we expect this technology might be slow at the start, but once trials are done it will increase rapidly," he said.

When it comes to streamlining production, Mr Donovan holds high hopes for the robotic workers of the future.

"Hopefully the machines are gentler on fruit," he said.

"Plus, robots can work day and night, they would increase productivity and result in better quality fruit at the end of the day."

Brisbane based company Universal Field Robots' engineer Tim Cassell said they were yet to reach out to Bundaberg and Childers farmers but had them earmarked for their future trial sites.

"We would like to visit Bundaberg within the next month and then look to be productional in about three months time," Mr Cassell said.

"Testing will initially be completed in Toowoomba just because it's within a close distance to Brisbane, but the larger farms around Bundaberg and Childers are places we want to work with.

"Founder and director of UFR Jeff Sterling began this project after talking with a farmer in Maleny.

"The farmer was describing issues such as staff shortages in Maleny which is what inspired this development.

"The labour shortage will only get worse as food the demand goes up so we are developing with the agricultural industry in mind."

The fruit picking attachment, pictured above, connects to a three and a half tonne excavator, also pictured, which is well suited to the harvesting of avocados.

"Avocado trees are quite tall and there's a lot of effort that goes into harvesting," Mr Cassell said.

"Our machine is quite well suited to avocado picking as it's five metres tall and can easily reach the treetops.

"Attachments will also consider a mower and a trimming device, and we intend on developing other applications like spraying and pruning tools," he said.

"We haven't started on the pruning or spraying tools yet but our expected development time is about three months."

The robotics company has been operating for just 18 months but has a big future planned for the agricultural industry.

 

To find out more about Universal Field Robots visit their website https://bit.ly/2spe3Uc.