One of the biggest hurdles to increased agricultural productivity is the lack of a 4G network, inhibiting farmers from using real time data, according to Tractor and Machinery Association executive director Richard Lewis.

Speaking at the WAFarmers conference last month, Mr Lewis said meeting strong growth aspirations in agriculture would depend on increasing productivity, with machinery having a huge role to play.

“We have as much ground being farmed as we are going to get, ” he said.

“Therefore, the only way to improve our productivity is to farm more productively. Machinery has a huge part to play in that.”

Mr Lewis said mechanisation in Australia had already had an enormous impact, enabling farming to be faster, safer and more accurate.

But in recent years the game-changer had been GPS technology which had enabled significant cost savings.

For instance, if relying on the human eye, “parallex error” meant farmers would double up by about two foot per row on a 60-foot bar. On a 2400ha property, that would equate to 80ha receiving double fertiliser, weed control and seeding.

Meanwhile, GPS technology which initially cost $120,000 when first released had fallen to about $35,000.

“If no longer doubling up on 200 acres, at $150 per acre to grow wheat, that’s $30,000 the farmer has saved in one year just on the planting and fertiliser side, ” Mr Lewis said.

“So the cost of GPS is now pretty easy to justify.”

Mr Lewis said in addition to GPS, other technological developments meant various machines could speak to each other, and although there were issues with operating drones, these could still have a significant impact on Australian farming.

“I see in the not too distant future a farmer sitting in an office on his farm collecting information from the combine harvester, his tractor, sprayer and whatever else he is running, ” he said.

“But the biggest hurdle we have is the lack of network. We can gather the data but can’t use it in real time. Without the real time ability, the effectiveness starts to wane.”


© The West Australian

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