Cotton grower Jamie Grant from the Australian district Jimbour is the first farmer that uses a commercial SwarmFarm robot with a WEED-IT system on his farm. It has a boom of 9 meters and a 1000 litre tank. Jamie is ‘pleasantly surprised’ with the robot. “We had far less drama than I expected.”
Jamie and his wife Susie run a farm of 2000 hectares, a dryland cotton operation with a cotton crop and French White Millet as a cover crop to store moisture. He rotates these crops every second year.
Weeds are always a problem. “There has been very low rainfall here for about 8 years but we still grow weeds.” The Queensland farmer has been following the SwarmFarm robotic technology for years. “I have been wanting one for a long time”, he says.
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Mr Grant is well known in the region for his proactive way of farming and has been striving to continuously improve spray applications. In 2017 he was awarded the ‘Service to Industry Award’ by the Darling Downs Cotton Growers Inc for being an ‘innovative cotton grower’.
The robot with the optical sprayer arrived at the start of September. Jamie explains that he does not have a special interest in technology. “I don’t particularly like technology, but if it can do something to help me or can make me some money, I’m interested.”
In the past weeks Jamie has been running his new robot system daily. “We really don’t understand yet what the full potential of it is”, he emphasises. “The only way to find out is to get it working for you and see where it leads to. And we already learned a lot.”
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Mr Grant says the first weeks of use have been without real problems . “We had far less drama than I thought we would have. We are just making the software more robust and more user friendly. It has left the theoretical stage and is now in a commercial stage. With a system like this you always have certain inadequacies, but the people from SwarmFarm and Dalby have either fixed them or are working on them.”
The results are encouraging. “I have just covered 3500 acres with it and I am about to turn it around and do it again with a double knock application.” The Queensland farmer has been working with selective spraying for 15 years and is expecting to save 95% of chemicals using the WEED-IT technology on his new robot.
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Operating the robot is not complicated. “If it is completely shut down, you flick an isolation switch and use a few push buttons. Once it is on, you can do it all via an iPad. If it is in sleep mode – not completely shut down – you can start it up from the iPad. Then you can start it from any distance.”
A tank gauge on the iPad shows what percentage of chemicals are left in the tank. “If it gets down to 10%, it will alert you on the iPad” he explains. “We haven’t got an automatic refilling system yet. It is still a little bit down the track, but that’s what will happen eventually.”
The cotton farmer explains that the SwarmFarm robot can be towed around easily. “We use an A-frame that goes on the front of it and his has some free wheeling hubs. We just put the hubs down and use our Toyota to pull it.”
The robot itself has a 75 horsepower diesel engine. “Everything runs on hydraulics, including the wheel drives and the boom spray pump.”
Want to learn more about the SwarmFarm robot and the WEED-IT system? Read the full story in the digital magazine!