Vegie robot from University of Sydney hits the field to help small farmers

Javier Martinez of the ACFR operates the prototype robot at Richmond WSU's paddock on Southee Road.
Javier Martinez of the ACFR operates the prototype robot at Richmond WSU's paddock on Southee Road.

Almost 100 growers and industry representatives from across Sydney turned out to get a glimpse of a newly developed 'vegie robot' at the Greater Sydney Local Land Services Demonstration Farm in Richmond at the end of June. 

The robot, near the end of its prototype phase, was put through its paces at the University of Western Sydney’s demonstration crop area on Southee Road in Richmond. It was developed by the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR).

ACFR project manager Nathan Apps said the robot can turn at the end of a row on its own by sensing field markers in the ground, and by use of a camera identifies plant mass which can lead to yield predictions and therefore income predictions. It also can take attachments – a sprayer, tine weeder and a seed dispenser. 

He said it should come to market within one to three years and was intended to be low-cost for use on small farms and in developing countries.

Growers travelled from as far as the Central Coast for the event, which included a workshop on soil-borne diseases.

Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources and Western NSW Richard Colless came along as well on behalf of Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair.

Senior Land Services officer Matthew Plunkett said the machine could “potentially be a game-changer for growers, particularly those in the Sydney basin”.  

In coming months it will be demonstrated on farms. “We believe it will help farmers with many of the laborious tasks as well as provide valuable crop information,” Professor Salah Sukkarieh of the ACFR said.