Former Premier Campbell Newman.
Former Premier Campbell Newman.

Former premier builds army of robots to help farmers

SINCE his ousting as premier two years ago Campbell Newman has set about building an army of robots, designed to improve the lives of those working in the bush.

Mr Newman, who now heads one of the world leaders in agricultural robotics, spoke at the 2017 Project Catalyst Forum on Monday, about how robots could not only improve farming operations, but how they could change the fabric of rural communities.


One of the robots discussed at the Project Catalyst
FUTURE OF FARMING: One of the robots discussed at the Project Catalyst forum.

The company he chairs, called SwarmFarm, aims to create smaller, versatile robots that can work together to carry out large jobs for farmers.

Mr Newman said as the techonlogy becomes widely used, it's likely to draw highly skilled coders and IT professionals out to the bush.

The technology had already pulled nine experts, many from Sydney, to a tiny town 30km south of Emerald to develop the technology.

"Hopefully you'll see in the smaller regional communities the need for people who can write code, who can create the various attachments that farmers want, who can service the robots, who can build the new applications," Mr Newman said. "So you have these pretty high tech jobs back in the bush."

Project Catalyst is a program between growers and organisations, including Coca-Cola, the World Wildlife Fund and the Australian Government, focussed on improving water quality into the Great Barrier Reef. The theme of the three day forum, from Sunday until Tuesday was "2020 and beyond"; a concept Mr Newman, painted a clear picture of.

In his opinion, the "farm of the future" would be dotted with sensors, to measure everything from nutrient content, to moisture levels in soils, to predicted yields.

It would also have its own automated weather station, security cameras to control access, drones to collect data and robots to carry out work.

But rather than leading to decreased labour for farmers, Mr Newman described a shift in focus, and believed much of their effort would soon be channelled into analysing and acting on the data, collected from the broad spectrum of sources.

Despite his enthusiasm, he "was not sure" he planned on entering the robotics field after politics. But he said his former political life had open doors as the company progressed, including sponsorship deals with major companies and support from the Federal and the Palaszczuk governments.