There’s no denying auto-steer systems revolutionised the agricultural industry — making farming faster, more accurate and less demanding on the person behind the wheel. But, around the turn of the century, having your tractor ‘drive itself’ seemed so far-fetched it was almost a myth. Ramsey Bros Director Linc Ramsey remembers the transition well.
“I’d returned home from Queensland around 2004 — a time when people had heard about this new technology but very few had it. The idea that you wouldn’t have to steer your own tractor was pretty out-there!” he recalls.
“Matt Crettenden and I were really getting into it, pushing basic manual guidance systems available at the time. A couple of our long-term customers, Dean and Tristan Waters, decided to invest in this revolutionary equipment and we were pumped.
“It was a seriously significant investment and a progressive move from the guys. These days you can buy a basic system under $10,000 but at the time, it was much closer to $100,000 for a proper set up.
“Dean and Tristan ordered a full system to suit their 4WD, and front-wheel-assist spray tractor. The features on offer from Topcon Agriculture were really cutting edge. Even better, being an Adelaide-based company who was doing a lot of research and development, meant they were creating systems that matched our needs — plus they could provide great on-ground support.
“Matt and I made the trip to the Waters’ farm near Wudinna on the Eyre Peninsula to install the systems. Between four of us, it took a week to fit it all — we knew in theory it would work, but hadn’t actually done it before so when we got it up and running, it was a pretty monumental moment!
“A few weeks later, we set up a demo day in the Waters’ paddock to let other local farmers see this ground-breaking stuff in action. Some of these guys — farmers for over 40 years — were gob-smacked, it was blowing their minds! It was so good hearing them say things like, ‘I never thought I’d see that… imagine if Dad was still alive!’” Linc says with a smile.
In a fast-paced world driven by technology, it’s easy to forget we’ve come leaps and bounds. Taking stock of these pivotal moments in the industry is all a big part of the story and something for the future generations to have a chuckle over.
“These days, we hardly sell a machine without installing these systems… it’s like having a radio in a car,” says Linc. “And, they certainly don’t take so many of us, so long to fit up, but being part of this turning point in the industry is something I’ll never forget.”