Nuffield farming scholarship (VG07100)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
Labour availability and rising costs were going to become increasingly problematic for vegetable producers. Employers needed to be looking for the means to overcome this challenge.
Mechanisation and robotics were the best option for decreasing the reliance on human input.
Machines and robots worked optimally when the crop and field conditions were of a high average quality with minimal standard deviation. This meant that a move to mechanisation and robotics would inevitably lead to a higher standard of agronomic practices and a better quality crop that would give a higher return.
Other less tangible benefits of mechanisation included: machines usually worked at a faster and more constant speed than humans, the remaining labour input was usually a more desirable job, reduced labour requirement meaning less stress for management and/or potential for expansion without increasing labour capital.
There were examples of just about all leafy vegetable crops being harvested with machines around the world. There were various types of machines, but they all involved a cutting and lifting mechanism.
For a farmer to embrace mechanisation and robotics they needed to embrace the concept that “Good farmers don’t look for excuses; they find ways to overcome challenges.” Social and environmental concerns were going to restrict the use of chemicals for control of weeds and diseases in vegetable production/agriculture. Farmers needed to look at alternative methods of weed and disease control.
There were a wide variety of methods to reduce reliance, improve effectiveness or eliminate the use of chemicals. Each method needed to be evaluated on a farm to farm basis. In a majority of cases farmers needed to be looking at alternative control options regardless of social and environmental pressures being put on chemical use.
0 7341 1994 1
This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the financial support of Nuffield Australia Farming Scholars and the vegetable industry.
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