SuniTAFE Scores Digital Farmhand

Digital Farmhand with solar panels

It’s not clear if the Victorian Government’s grant covered the purchase of the solar model, but SuniTAFE has acquired an Australian designed and produced agricultural robot called The Digital Farmhand.

SuniTAFE SMART Farm is situated around 16 kilometres from the centre of Mildura.  The farm acts as a training and research facility implementing the latest innovations and best practices of digital farming.

A new bit of kit the SMART Farm team will be tinkering with is the Digital Farmhand, which was developed by The University of Sydney’s robotics development arm Agerris. Described as a “drone on wheels”, the device can carry out a number of tasks including spraying and weeding with “surgical precision” when fitted with the appropriate add-ons. Other capabilities include digital mapping, assessing plant health and providing yield estimations.

The Digital Farmhand has a battery life of 7-10 hours, but that can be extended to up to 15 hours with on-board solar panels. It can be remotely controlled or operated in autonomous mode, has the power to carry or tow up to 200kg and a speed of 6km/h.

At $300,000 for SuniTAFE’s acquisition, it wasn’t cheap, so here’s hoping the solar panels and other bits and bobs were thrown in with the deal.

Here’s a tricked-out solar electric model in action – the weeding sequence is really interesting.

The Digital Farmhand continues to be developed, with harvesting noted as one of its future functions.

An earlier version of the Digital Farmhand underwent trials in Fiji and Samoa a couple of years ago, with view to eventually providing small-scale farmers an inexpensive way to increase crop yields.

As for the SuniTAFE SMART farm, it has been generating interest internationally for activities such as a trial of dwarf almond and olive plantings that is occurring in partnership with multinational nursery Agromillora. Other crops grown or to be grown on the farm include wine and table grapes, various citrus, stone fruit, avocados and seasonal vegetables.

It’s an ‘open door’ facility where farmers, industry bodies, suppliers and researchers can take a look around.

Solar In Use At Other Victorian Smart Farms

While on the topic of solar power and smart farms, last month we reported Tatura SmartFarm in Victoria is trialling the use of solar panels to protect fruit trees from extreme heat events. Solar power is also being used in a more conventional way at Ellinbank SmartFarm, which has a 100kW PV and 100kWh battery system; installed by SQ client Kuga Electrical.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. Ronald Brakels says

    Mechanical weeding will lead to mechanical pest control which means Australia may eventually defeat the Helicoverpa armigera moth, which is now so pesticide resistance the caterpillars think spraying crops just makes them taste spicy.

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