Viticulturists and orchardists from the Orange region had a chance on Thursday to discuss how automation and robotics technology could be used, in an effort to catch up to developments in crop farming.
The farmers and Department of Primary Industry experts discussed technological developments such as automatic pruning, and using drones for weed and pest control when they met with a delegation from Yamaha Motor Ventures at the DPI’s Orange Agricultural Institute, and at Rowlee Wines.
Faisan Estate Wines owner Michael Walker said the more confined spaces in vineyards and orchards meant there were fewer technological applications being used but the meeting with the adventure capitalists was an opportunity to look at what technology was out there at the moment and what can be developed.
“For me it was a fact finding mission which is what [Yamaha] were trying to do as well,” Mr Walker said.
“They are looking for ideas to invest in.
“A lot of this technology already gets used in cropping but making it useful for horticulture and viticulture is harder because we are working in confined spaces.”
He said the meeting also discussed how automation and robotics are used in agriculture in California where about 50 per cent of the USA’s fresh fruit is grown and the industry is trying to cope with labour shortages.
“We are having similar issues, the whole 457 Visa debacle and amount of available labour isn’t there anymore,” Mr Walker said.
DPI General Research Excellence deputy director Dr John Tracey said the meeting was also an opportunity for the DPI to look at a partnership and to get access to the latest technology in agricultural advancement and management.
He said technology already being trialed includes automatic pruning at orchards and vineyards.
Dr Tracey said drones and ballistics have also been developed for planting and shooting seeds into the ground, which is particularly beneficial for forestry and regeneration.
There is also weed and pest control that can be better targeted by using a drone.