Grain farmer and autonomous agriculture innovator Andrew Bate is living proof that you reap what you sow.
After more than two decades growing wheat, sorghum, chickpea and mungbeans in Central Queensland, Andrew is recognised as a leading farmer within Australian agriculture.
The trained agronomist is also at the forefront of a global movement towards autonomous agriculture, having spent the past 10 years developing and refining a fleet of innovative, independent robots capable of transforming farming as we know it.
Building an agritech solution
Andrew is the CEO and Co-Founder of SwarmFarm, one of the world’s first companies to develop and deliver commercial agricultural robots to farmers. Known as SwarmBots, the compact, nimble, autonomous platforms are allowing farmers to implement new farming techniques and methods previously not considered possible or practical.
To date, the company has delivered 40 robots to farms across Australia and commercially farmed more than 1.1 million acres.
“The reason for starting SwarmFarm was really to bring new farming practices and new ways of growing crops into agriculture,” said Andrew.
“So much of agriculture is based on an answer in a can. For every problem we find, we’re looking for a chemical to spray on our crops to fix it. But what about farming practices beyond chemicals? How can we start growing better crops with new technology?
“We started thinking about how do we kill weeds without chemicals. How can we go in and modify plants in crop. Can we prune excess tillers or thin crops to better match soil and seasonal outlook?
“These farming techniques and the technology we need to do this sort of thing, only really exists in the realms of robotics.”
Showcasing the future of farming
While the compact size and autonomous operation of the SwarmBots are currently transforming the process of precision weeding, spraying and mowing, Andrew believes this is just the beginning for on-farm robotic technology.
He will share his vision for the industry at the AgriFutures evokeAG. 2023 Down to Earth event in Adelaide on 21-22 February 2023, as one of four speakers taking part in a panel session exploring the current state and future directions of autonomous agriculture.
“Australia has the runs on the board for autonomy and ag robotics now, and the industry’s starting to grow. Australia is actually a world leader in the adoption of this technology already,” said Andrew.
“But what’s going to come next? What’s the future like? It’ll be interesting to explore some of those topics during the panel session.”
Creating connections through evokeAG.
This won’t be Andrew’s first experience of evokeAG., though, having taken part in the evokeAG. Startup Program, which boasts three pivotal opportunities for successful applicants, including Startup Alley, Startup Showcase and the Investor Pitch Dinner.
“evokeAG. was pivotal for us because we really got to connect with investors there, and a lot of investors who had heard about us and spoken to us actually got to see our robots at the event,” explained Andrew.
“As a rural-based agritech company, we got to meet venture capitalists that don’t normally get out into rural Australia to invest, and we were able to make those connections.
“But it’s not just about investment. A lot of the connections we made linked us to overseas markets and other partners that we work with now.
“It’s not a conference where it’s death by PowerPoint, and it isn’t your conventional field day. It’s a unique event that connects agritech to other companies and other opportunities.
“There are very few events where you genuinely get to gather and have the time to build those relationships and partnerships. I think that’s the most exciting aspect.”
The evokeAG. 2023 event will take place in Adelaide, South Australia on 21-22 February 2023 at the Adelaide Convention Centre. Bringing together the best and brightest together to talk about how innovation and technology collide, intersect, connect, translate, complement, and challenge our most important assets – our people, our farms, our soil, our water and our Earth.