Robots stars of the Fieldays show

Farmers and orchardists braved a cold but clear morning for the second day of National Agricultural Fieldays, keen to see the inventions that could make their businesses more successful.

Robots gained plenty of attention yesterday, particularly a robotic harvester that promises to help pick some of the more than 3 billion kiwifruit grown in New Zealand each year.

Scientists and engineers working with Waikato and Auckland universities have developed the robot, designed to move along beneath the vines and use an array of cameras to work out where the fruit is.

It will be welcomed by an industry hit by labour shortages, with trials showing it can pick fruit more gently than a human.

Developers say the machine will be ready for the market in three years.

A robotic rover called Farm Junior also showed promise for pasture management.

The machine moves around the farm measuring pasture height, detecting weeds and zapping them with an electrical charge.

Steve Dawson from Ag-Innovators said the software was still being developed but it could eventually be used to carry medical supplies for stock as well.

More than 70 inventors, some still at high school, showed off their inventions in a competition to find the best farm hacks.

Among them was an LED light designed to sit under the bonnet of a tractor to stop the common complaint of birds causing tractor fires when they nest in the engine.

Student Jock Yarndley, from St Paul's Collegiate School, said his light disorientates the birds, stopping them nesting.

James Mitchell, another agribusiness student from the college, developed a crowbar-like tool to pull metal staples out of fence posts.

"Many fencing contracting companies have come up to us and said how they like the product and how we could develop it in the future, paint it and market it as a multi-tool," Mitchell said.

One competitor set his sights on easing the back-breaking work of moving newborn calves from paddock to shed.

Greg Kane from Now Innovations said the stretcher-like carrying harness would help farmers move new-born calves around their property, protecting both farmer and cow from being stood on.

- NZ Herald

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