Ingenuity of autonomous sprayer captures award at Henty
An autonomous sprayer eliminating operator downtime and breaks while increasing speed, consistency and efficiency of application is working its way through the almond crops in Victoria and NSW.
The GUSS sprayer’s ability to solve the problems associated with spraying orchards, vineyards and high-density orchards earnt the machine the title of the 2023 Henty Machine of the Year.
The award was presented by Henty Machinery Field Days award judge Warren Scheetz to Hutcheon and Pearce sales and marketing manager Andrew Watt and integrated solutions manager Hamish Ross on September 19.
The autonomous sprayer on display at the field days is one of less than 10 in Australia with the others field proven in almond orchards in the Sunraysia and Riverina districts.
The sleek stainless steel plated machine looking more like a rocket than sprayer captured much interest from field days visitors keen to see what the future of horticulture will look like.
Designed and developed in the US, the GUSS sprayer has worked in cherry, tobacco, pecan, grape and apple crops.
Mr Watt said GUSS sprayers solve the problems associated with spraying orchards, vineyards and high-density orchards.
He said GUSS sprayers drive themselves – a single employee can monitor a combination of up to eight GUSS, mini GUSS and Herbicide GUSS sprayers at a time using a laptop computer.
In the event an issue is detected onboard a GUSS sprayer, the interface automatically sends both visual and audible alerts to the operator.
GUSS sprayers use a combination of GPS, LiDAR, sensors and software to guide GUSS sprayers safely and efficiently.
It allows precisely control application rates and sprayer speeds across entire fields and in variable terrain.
GUSS eliminates operator downtime and breaks, while increasing speed, consistency and efficiency of application, eliminates human error, reduces exposure to materials being applied and reduces the need for PPE, shade and water.
It features multiple weed detection sensors for precision spraying and minimal chemical usage plus features an adjustable boom height and width with breakaway booms for various field conditions.
Mr Watt said the Machine of the Year Award meant much to Hutcheon and Pearce, reaffirming the release of the autonomous technology to the Australian market.
“There are less than 10 units in Australia as they were only released officially by John Deere in mid 2022 and we have strong interest with a number of orders in the system and demonstration units gracing customer’s fields over the next 12 months,” he said.
“In the US, the GUSS is working in permanent plantings such as almond orchards and citrus.
“There are three different versions including the mini GUSS for narrower rows and horticulture and an Herbicide GUSS with multiple weed detection sensors for precision spraying and minimal chemical usage.
“Global labour shortages are essentially driving these innovations in ag and challenges of inputs whether it be chemical and fuel costs or labour itself.”
Hamish Ross said a single GUSS sprayer can replace six normal blast sprayers equating to six operators plus nurse trucks, and reducing 45 minute downtime to refill to just three minutes.
“Six to eight people are replaced by two – one monitoring using a laptop and one running a nurse truck – so it’s all about productivity,” he said.
Andrew Watt said every Australian GUSS unit would soon be integrated with the intelligent spray control system, SmartApply®, giving control over each individual nozzle using LiDAR to map the canopy density.
“The nozzle will turn off if there is no tree, saving a huge amount of chemical in blast spraying applications. The data captured by SmartApply® allows tree health to be mapped.”
The GUSS retails at USD $307,000 plus freight and delivery. Each machine weighs 5288kg, is powered by a John Deere PowerTech 4 cylinder 4.5 litre diesel and equipped with a 600-gallon stainless steel material tank and 32 nozzle spray manifold with individual shutoffs.
The machine comes in standard, narrow or low impact options.
“Several hundred machines have been at work in the US over the past few years spraying over 1.4 million acres with high reliability. The long-term plan is to fully integrate the Australian units with John Deere engines and technology replacing the Trimble system,” Mr Watt said.