THE next steps to commercialise autonomous machines in Australia was discussed by Society of Precision Agriculture Australia committee member, and Grain Producers Australia representative Rohan Rainbow at the recent SPAA Symposium.
Mr Rainbow said sophisticated agricultural technologies have revolutionized the agriculture industry and there is a need for social adjustment - consideration needs to be given to the impact on regional communities, skills requirements and training needs before the introduction of driverless vehicles.
GPA has plans to develop a code of practice which will be co-funded by GPA with manufacturer investment and input from producer and industry organizations.
The code of practice is expected to be delivered by March 1, 2020 for presentation to government and wider industry stakeholders.
Mr Rainbow said that a recent study of the potential benefits of digital agriculture, including agricultural machine automation, highlighted potential returns of $878 million for the grains industry from reduced labor costs.
"An additional $91 million return would come from reduced chemical use through improved targeted application using sensing and automation," he said.
"However, for those benefits to be realised, commercial pathways to adoption and industry confidence in the use of autonomy technologies is required."
He said Australian agriculture needed to build confidence and trust before machinery manufacturers could commercialise these technologies.
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GPA believes agriculture must take a similar approach to the mining industry in developing the world first code of practice for agriculture field machine autonomy.
"With widespread agricultural machine autonomy imminent in Australia, it is essential that a proactive approach is led by producers to ensure social and regulatory confidence in successful, risk-managed adoption is maintained."
The prospectus for the code of practice has been prepared by GPA to encourage stakeholder collaboration and investment.
There is an open invitation for other field-based plant industries to participate with the aim that this also meets their needs.
GPA proposes that other field-based plant industries, agricultural chemical and machine manufacturers invest into and participate in this process.
GPA invites comment, feedback and written commitment to participate in the establishment of an Industry Code of Practice for Agricultural Field Machine Autonomy by September 30, 2019.
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