Three clever Aussie inventions that shaped the agricultural industry

Three clever Aussie inventions that shaped the agricultural industry

These Aussie inventions revolutionised practices in the farming, mining and export industries. Without them, our world may look very different today.

A rough sketch of the Stump Jump Plough.

Stump Jump Plough

The Stump Jump Plough was a groundbreaking machine conceived by brothers Richard and Clarence Smith from South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula. The machine enabled farmers to cultivate their land without needing to remove all rocks and stumps beforehand.

During the late 1800s, mass land clearing was disrupted by large mallee stumps in the ground making it difficult for farmers to plough their land. Noticing an issue, the Smith brothers designed their Stump Jump Plough in 1876, using several hinged blades which lifted out of the ground when they hit an obstruction. This allowed the machine to ‘jump’ over roots and rocks.

While both brothers invented the plough together, it was Clarence Smith who would continue to improve the original design. Initially working under his brother as a blacksmith’s apprentice, he was eventually able to open a factory in Ardrossan in 1880, where he began widespread manufacturing of this vital machine.

Arthur James Arnot, the inventor of the electric drill.

Electric drill

Nowadays, the electric drill is a staple in every homeowner’s toolbox. But this handy contraption actually owes its invention to Australia’s mining industry.

In 1891, Scottish-born engineer Arthur James Arnot became the first-ever electrical engineer on the Melbourne City Council. However, he is better known for his earlier work patenting the electric drill in 1889 alongside his Melbourne-based colleague William Blanch Brain. The two were inspired to develop a tool capable of drilling rock and coal for use in the mines.

Five years later, German brothers Wilhelm and Carl Fein created the first portable electric drill, however it was much heavier and larger than modern iterations of the device and needed two hands to hold. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the portable hand-held drills we know today were finally produced.

Aussie inventions
An early ice making machine.


In the 1850s, ships travelling between Europe and Australia would carry fresh meat and vegetables. However, with no way to keep these goods cold, they would spoil before reaching land.

James Harrison, a printer from Melbourne, accidentally discovered the process of refrigeration when he was cleaning his printing press with ether, a colourless liquid often used as a solvent. He noticed that when the liquid evaporated, the metal on the press cooled. Inspired to continue his research, Harrison developed a machine that pumped ether through metal coils to cool them down. In 1850, he opened an ice factory in Geelong, where he produced roughly 3 tonnes of ice every day.

In 1873, Harrison attempted to ship 20 tonnes of beef from Australia to England using his cooling system. While the experiment failed, Harrison remained determined to develop a commercially viable product. He moved to England to partner with the engineering firm Siebe & Co, where he sold his first refrigeration machine to a London brewery. It wasn’t long before more improvements and sales followed.

For a short history of Australian tractors, click here.

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