The owner and director of a Queensland agronomy company says robotic tractors could be on the market sooner than many people might think.
In an edition of Country News in January 2015, Rice Research Australia manager Russell Ford believed the industry would see robot tractors on farms in about 10 to 15 years.
However Tony Crowley, who is the owner and director of Queensland agronomy company Farmacist, said the wait would be much smaller.
‘‘We should have a commercial tractor nearly ready in April 2018,’’ he said.
If Mr Crowley’s prediction is correct, the government will need to get a wriggle on.
‘‘The biggest problem in the future is legislation. There is no real legislation on autonomous tractors in Australia.
‘‘The legislation needs to be pre-emptive and thought out.’’
Mr Crowley said the autonomous machines had improved significantly from the original trial in Jerilderie in NSW, with a trial in Mackay in Queensland improving the tractors’ error margin, which was at 5cm at Jerilderie, among other things.
‘‘The Mackay trial has developed better software to improve the acquisition time by two to three times. The control of the tractor and turning has improved dramatically.
‘‘The error margin is between 2 and 5cm now.’’
Mr Crowley said the tractors were currently being used in crops of sugar cane but would be ready for use on any crops when they went on the market.
‘‘The tractors were being used for spraying, fertilising, bed forming and cultivating and will be able to be used for any cropping ... broadacre or row cropping,’’ he said.