cover cropping

USQ research soaks up cover cropping options

Researchers from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) are studying the effect of cover cropping on soil moisture through computer modelling and system analysis, to better support agricultural soils and the decisions farmers must make each season.  Read more

How to save time on belt repairs: A grain handling case study

When you work in the grain handling business, ensuring your conveyor equipment is in tip top condition for harvest season is essential. Which is why Kerry Hickmott leans on BSC in Toowoomba for the support and supply of LOCTITE®product for preventative maintenance and belt repair. 

“I run a workshop that primarily builds and repairs grain handling equipment for a major grain producer,” explains Kerry. “In Queensland we have two harvest seasons for grain – these fall over spring and summer. For this reason, we carry out maintenance and repair work from April through to September to make sure the equipment is in good condition for harvest.”

Grain belts are, of course, critical to these operations. Business Development Executive for BSC in Toowoomba, Mark Brocherie, explains why.

“When it comes to handling the grain, conveyor belts are commonly used. This rubber belting can tear from time to time,” he says. “If you do have a tear in the belt, it can lead to premature failure and consequently cause a lot of damage, including a potential breakdown.”

According to Kerry, breakdowns have to be avoided at all costs. 

“Downtime is not an option for us – if it does occur, it has serious implications for our business, not just in terms of immediate costs but in how those subsequent delays will affect our customers,” expounds Kerry. “It’s a competitive business. If people are waiting too long to drop their grain off, they will call another grain depot to make alternative arrangements.”

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AgriFuture calling proposals for $2m carbon initiative

AgriFutures Australia has unveiled a $2 million carbon initiative designed to investigate carbon management challenges. It will explore innovative products, practices and technologies that have the ability to improve carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) in Australia’s agricultural sector.

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ABARES Outlook 2021: Agriculture conference to commence this week

The ABARES Outlook 2021 will be held as a virtual conference for the first time beginning from the 2 to the 5 of March. With over 1200 delegates registered, the conference will focus on navigating the challenges and opportunities for Australia’s growing agriculture sector, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Oiling the wheel for Boundary Bend’s olive harvesters

Australia’s award-winning extra virgin olive oil, Cobram Estate, is advertised as ‘the only oil you need,’ and while that message pertains to the delicate process of cooking, the less delicate process of harvesting the olives relies on other types of lubricants, as Bryden Coote, Branch Manager at BSC’s Swan Hill explains.

“When you have a chain worth thousands of dollars installed on a harvesting machine, it can become quite expensive if the chains do not last through the harvest season, not to mention the downtime from having to replace the chain in the middle of harvesting,” says Bryden.

Cobram Estate is the flagship brand of Boundary Bend Limited (BBL) – Australia’s largest olive farmer and producer of extra virgin olive oil. Across its multiple olive groves in the Murray Valley region of Victoria, BBL owns over 2.5 million olive trees on more than 6000 hectares of farmland.

To efficiently harvest olives from these groves, BBL has been involved in developing its own unique olive harvester machines that enable continuous harvesting rather than the discontinuous system used in most other olive growing countries. During the harvest season, these machines work 24 hours a day to pick the olives when they are at their best.

Over the past couple of years and as recommended by Bryden, Sam Griffiths, Maintenance Manager at the Boundary Bend Estate has been using CRC TAC2 chain lubricants for the maintenance of the Boundary Bend harvester machines – with more than satisfactory results.

“Every day, as part of our routine maintenance, we spray the CRC TAC2 on the harvester chains and this has helped us extend the service life of the chains considerably,” says Sam. “We only use the harvester machines during the harvest season but by keeping the chains lubricated throughout the year, we have almost halved our chain breakdowns. Now we only replace the chains once or twice a year as part of our routine maintenance.”

Iain Faber, National Channel Manager at CRC Industries explains why TAC2 is a suitable choice for lubricating high-speed chains, such as the ones in Boundary Bend’s harvesters.

“The CRC TAC2 is a dual-viscosity lubricant, which means it can be sprayed onto the chain as an oil but it firms up into a grease-like consistency as it sets, enabling it to remain in place without flinging off. Because of this unique formulation, TAC2 can penetrate into the pins and the seals in the chain to effectively protect the chain against wear.

“Moreover, the TAC2 lubricant is resistant to water wash downs, so it can be safely used in areas where water is present. It has a wide operating temperature range, so you can use TAC2 in both hot and cold temperatures.”

But TAC2 is not the only chain lubricant CRC has on offer. The CRC GEL TAC is another chain lubricant with similar properties as TAC2 but suited to different applications, as Iain explains.

“I always use the example of a motorbike and a forklift,” says Iain. “Whereas the TAC2 is best suited for high speed applications like motorbike chains, GEL TAC is designed to stay in place in low speed, high pressure applications such as the chains used in general leaf and pin chains and overhead forklifts.

“The CRC GEL TAC has the similar benefits as the TAC2 in terms of dual-viscosity and water resistance, in addition to having a higher temperature performance. The GEL TAC can withstand temperatures up to 300 degree Celsius compared to the 165 degree Celsius in TAC2. Both products are water-insoluble, meaning that they both perform very well in high water environments and resist water wash off.

Additionally, CRC also offers the Food Grade range of chain lubricants for applications where risk of incidental contact with food is present.

“The CRC Food Grade chain lubricants use a special blend of mineral oil and synthetic additives. The formulation for these lubricants is such that after you spray the oil, it forms bubbles and this foaming action gives the oil better penetration rate into the chain,” he says.

“CRC’s Food Grade range are all NSF-H1 certified and tested for a list of 25 allergens, making them safe to use across all food processing applications. CRC also has all of the certifications required for audit purposes, enabling food processors to easily produce these when required.”

Back to the context of the BBL application, Bryden says in addition to recommending the best lubrication product for each application, BSC experts can also advise on the best maintenance regime to help extend the chain longevity for customers.

“Our customers invest heavily on chains and sprockets for their equipment and it’s important that these chains are maintained as best as possible. When BSC staff visit any site, they often check the equipment and make maintenance recommendations depending on the site conditions and the equipment available on the plant,” says Bryden.

As for Sam, he says he is quite pleased with the services he receives from the BSC Swan Hill branch, particularly Bryden, with whom he has been engaging regularly for the past four years.

“BSC is a very good supplier and the team are genuinely helpful, always going out of their way to supply us the required parts and products when we need them urgently. It’s a relationship built on trust and grown over time.”

Read more articles like this at: www.lets-roll.com.au

 

           

 

Staying a ‘cut’ ahead

How Midwest Fabrication, a Queensland-based manufacturer of grain harvesting equipment, grew from building the first machine for their own farm to gaining national recognition for their products in just over two decades is the material great Aussie success stories are made of.

Martin Schutt, a second-generation grain farmer started Midwest on his family farm north of Moonie in Queensland. After purchasing his first combine harvester in 1998, Martin was frustrated with the performance of the imported cutting platforms and thought he could improve the design to gain better efficiencies in the field.

Starting from a basic sketch drawn around the kitchen table, the Schutt family were able to develop their first cutting platform in the workshop and test it in the field. The platform soon received national recognition from the contract harvesting community for its simple and efficient design. Orders started pouring in forcing the business to relocate to Dalby to be able to meet the increasing demands.

The company is renowned for its innovation winning multiple awards including Best New Innovation Award, Best Australian Agricultural Machine, Best Manufacturing Business and Business of the Year.
Martin says Midwest was the first manufacturer in the world to build a 12 metre (40 ft) front in 1998, and the 15 metre fronts followed a decade later. The advancements in innovation continue to set the standards and benchmark leading the world in grain harvesting technology now producing a whopping 18.3 metre (60 ft) harvest front, another world first.

But Midwest Fabrication’s innovations did not stop there. Over the years, the company has grown its range of draper platforms to suit different applications and fit all major combine harvester brands. Additionally, the company also produces a wide range of accessories and spare parts for its cutting platforms, including cutting knives specially designed for Australian farming conditions.

Midwest’s sole goal is to help increase harvesting efficiency for farmers and contact harvesters while reducing overheads and running costs. The wider drapers mean customers are working their harvesters to maximum capacity, saving time, fuel costs and receiving better return on their investments.

Midwest Fabrication has built a highly successful Australia wide dealer network consisting of 92 Agricultural dealers supporting our product nationally and are currently in the process of developing a one-acre factory in Dalby to bring its engineering and manufacturing facilities under one roof.
Martin believes such a rapid growth by a family business would not have been possible without dedication to continuous improvement and innovation.

“It’s only through constant improvement and being innovative that we’ve been able to achieve what we have achieved. Ever since we built our first unit, we’ve been up against some of the largest global agricultural machinery manufacturers; but through constant innovation, we’ve been able to remain ahead of the competition.

Over the past 16 years, Midwest Fabrication has been working with CBC Australia – as the largest supplier of bearings and industrial parts in Australia – to source components for its in-house designed products.

Martin says the collaboration with CBC has enabled Midwest Fabrication to refine its products further, making them more efficient and durable.

“We are continually improving the mechanical design of our products. In one example, CBC helped us replace the original four-band ‘B’ type v-belts on the main drive with the Gates high-strength Predator belts, and more recently we improved the design again and introduced the Gates Polychain carbon belts, providing a more efficient, quieter and cooler running drive belt.”

Warren Beale, CBC’s Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) manager for Queensland, says apart from being a key supplier, CBC also offers engineering and design supports to Midwest Fabrication where required.

“After so many years of working with Midwest Fabrication and holding regular meetings to understand their requirements, we now have a very clear understanding of the products they need each harvest season. This allows CBC to maintain the right stock level for Midwest Fabrication to meet its requirements when their demand is at its peak.

“Additionally, we also help them with engineering support and application-specific information. This might be helping with product improvements as it was in the case of the Gates Polychain belt upgrades or suggesting alternative components to make the designs lighter and more efficient,” he says.
Commenting on winning the Gold prize for Motion Asia Pacific’s Let’s Roll: Australian Business Awards 2020, Martin says the win is a result of hard work put forward by the team, as much as a result of engineering excellence and innovation.

“This award is also a recognition of our staff’s skills, their dedication to the business and their pride in their workmanship. If not for them, we would not be here today,” says Martin.

“As business owners, it is easy to get lost in the day-to-day running and focussing on keeping the wheels turning and not celebrate the successes when they come along. This recognition is a great reminder for us to reflect on what we have built over the years from that sketch around the kitchen table, our significant growth, and the exciting future ahead of Midwest.”

Midwest Fabrication is a Gold Award winner at the Let’s Roll: Australian Business Awards 2020. To learn more about the Awards, click here

Paper looks into ethics of using robots in agriculture

With automation poised to transform agriculture in Australia in the coming years, Monash University researchers have published the first-ever analysis of the ethical and policy issues raised by the use of robots in agriculture.
Agriculture employs around 2.5 per cent of the country’s workforce and is a valuable export, however, according to Professor of Philosophy Robert Sparrow and Philosophy Research Fellow Dr Mark Howard, little attention has been paid to the ethical and policy challenges that will arise as agriculture is increasingly automated.
Together they investigated the prospects for, and likely impacts and ethical and policy implications of, the use of robotics in agriculture in their paper Robots in agriculture: prospects, impacts, ethics and policy, recently published in the journal Precision Agriculture.
“While there hasn’t yet been widespread adoption of robots in farming due to a lack of technological breakthroughs, it’s anticipated there will be a gradual emergence of technologies for precision farming as well as the use of automation in food processing and packaging,” Professor Sparrow said.
“Already we are seeing the development and, increasingly, the adoption of GPS-enabled autonomous tractors and harvesters, robotic milking stations and dairies, robotic fruit and vegetable pickers, drones for rounding up livestock and crop-dusting and automation in slaughterhouses, food handling, processing and packaging all exist, among others.”
The authors said with global and local food security facing profound challenges including climate change, soil depletion, loss of biodiversity, water scarcity and population growth, robots could help farmers confront these challenges by improving yield and productivity, while reducing levels of fertiliser and pesticide use, as well as water wastage.
However, they stated the widespread adoption of robots in farming could have negative consequences, including mismanagement of chemicals, soil compaction due to heavy robots and potential food wastage if consumers come to expect standardised or ‘perfect’ produce.
This could also lead to further standardisation of breeding and creation via genetic modification of crops and livestock better suited to robotic harvest.
There is also a fear that smaller or struggling farms could miss out on the technology and be unable to keep up, leading to a centralisation of ownership in agriculture.
“There’s a risk that robots could impact negatively on biodiversity and on the environmental sustainability of agriculture more generally,” Dr Howard said. “Strong policy that encourages the development of robots that contribute to small-scale, local, and biodiverse agriculture and do not just promote existing unsustainable agricultural practices is a must.”
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Some industry experts suggest robots could also be used to improve the wellbeing of animals in livestock facilities by enabling feeding and watering regimes to be tailored, faster identification of sick animals and administration of medication, more humane veterinary procedures, and more humane and efficient means of slaughter.
“However, it should be acknowledged that, by their very nature, intensive farming practices pose significant challenges to animal welfare,” Dr Howard said. “The activities of robots may actually exacerbate the threats to animal welfare in practice.”
On a positive note, the physically intense labour associated with agriculture work and its seasonal nature could see robots developed for tasks such as weeding, fruit and vegetable picking, food handling and packaging tasks, which could increase productivity and the amount of produce sent to market.
Labour costs could also be reduced, but this would of course mean a reduction in employment opportunities, particularly for those in rural areas where employment opportunities are scarcer.
Researchers said the industry also needed to consider the potential risk that malicious actors might try to “hack”, or launch cyber attacks against, the automation on the farms of other nations.
“The urgent need to move towards more sustainable agricultural practices while, at the same time, meeting an increased demand for agricultural produce globally, means that there is a strong ethical imperative to explore how robots might be used to advance these goals,” Professor Sparrow said.
“The scale of the current global environmental crisis, and the challenge it poses to food security, suggests that every option to try to improve the sustainability of agriculture should be considered.”
Authors said a holistic approach to the uptake of robot technology in agriculture was required, firstly to address public concerns and the social and political impacts that may arise, as well as comprehensive consideration of the ethical and policy ramifications of their use
 

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