Spraying robots used in Queensland agriculture to reduce labor and chemical costs

Robots once heralded as the future of Australian farming have arrived and are helping to solve farmers’ labor problems and reduce costs as they become more affordable.

Automated boom sprayers do light work of persistently growing weeds at Coggan Farms, a sprawling holding near Westmar in Queensland’s Western Downs, after good summer rains.

Coggan Farms operations manager Tom Coggan said he no longer needed a worker to manually operate the spray rigs.

Instead, he sets a course on his iPad and waits for the notification to fill the platforms.

He said he was saving thousands of dollars by “using” the automated machines.

“When you appreciate a staff member, you have to pay, I don’t know, between $25 an hour and $40, depending on the type of experience you’re looking for and the type of machine you’re trying to drive. , ” he said.

“They’re doing 50 hours a week, that’s $2,000 a week, for 52 weeks a year, that’s a pretty big labor saving.”

Tom (left) and Phillip Coggan control the robot sprayers from their iPads.(Rural ABC: Sophie Johnson)

The robot gets the “boring job”

Mr Coggan said camera spraying was boring work.

“It goes up and it comes back to a paddock,” he says.

He said the cameras wouldn’t go off if there were no weeds.

“So if you have a clean paddock, the operator gets very bored,” he said.

Mr Coggan said his business saves up to 90% on chemicals when the paddocks are clean because the spray will only go off when it spots a weed.

Spray robots can run all day, every day, with a fuel tank that allows up to 24 hours of production.

Mr Coggan said the robots save 10 to 15 liters per hour on fuel alone, which amounts to $30 per hour.

“It’s hard to have someone who is happy doing the same job for 52 weeks a year,” he said.

Tom and Phillip Coggan walk towards a Spray Bot in their enclosure.
Coggan Farms is looking to invest in more technology after the successful introduction of robot sprayers.(Rural ABC: Sophie Johnson)

Coggan Farms switched to robot sprayer technology when faced with a weed problem early last summer.

“We were quite short-staffed…and we’re very lucky to have made the decision to go to them, as staff have actually become harder to come by over the past 12 months,” Mr Coggan said. .

Manufacturers booked a year in advance

Goondiwindi Hayes Spraying manufactures bespoke robotic sprayers for farmers.

Co-owner Morris Hayes said the demand for the new technology was unprecedented.

“The technology is bringing big reductions in chemical use, which is good for the budget, good for soil health, good for the whole planet, really,” Hayes said.

Hayes Spraying has sales booked 12 months in advance and Hayes expects demand to only increase.

“Over the next five years, you’ll see more and more automated vehicles and automated tractors…most of the tractor fleet within 10 years…will be automated,” he said.