Raised beds bring rivals together

Raised bed cropping is the latest farming phenomenon in southern Australia - and no wonder with wheat yields of up to eight tonnes a hectare transforming the whole economy of districts once limited to grazing or the vagaries of wool.

Land previously too wet for broadacre cropping is now able to take advantage of that rainfall. It has meant a steep learning curve, especially for graziers-turned-graingrowers, who have been turning up in their hundreds to recent field days.

It is also bringing together local farm machinery manufacturers keen to be a part of the movement.

At Geelong, three rival firms have gone so far as to join forces to design and build a specialised air-seeder for raised beds.

Geelong-based farm machinery manufacturer Rex Watson, of Watson Farm Machinery, has been in the engineering business for about 20 years, and while innovation has been his stock in trade, he suspects his new alliance with erstwhile competitors is a first for his industry.

“Knuckey"s at Winchelsea make the press wheels, Harry Green at Grovedale makes the seed box, and we make the main frame and assemble it all here,” says Mr Watson.

“It"s probably the first time three machinery manufacturers like us have done this sort of thing together.” The first air-seeder prototypes went out last season and the machine is now in full production.

Mr Watson says that about 80 percent of his business is now targeted towards the raised bed machinery market, which he says has allowed him to employ an extra three workers in his factory.