20thC Aust farming inventions

The idea for this section of the website comes from the theme for the 2013 National Science Week, applied to our farming community.  This page is an introduction to pages as pdfs for specific inventions for farming. It begins with a discussion on farming innovation and how that is linked to improving sustainability in farming. The information subheadings for the inventions are listed before the detailed table of machine inventions.  The pdfs also include some exercises for these inventions for Shape Sleuths -activities linking inventions to the the  2013 Maths of Planet Earth.

Twentieth Century Australian Farming Inventions

Do you only think of sustainability in farming as a recent idea? ( for exploration of this concept go to http://enviroed4all.com.au/biodiversity-on-our-farm/sustainability-in-farming/  )

While ‘sustainability’ is a relatively new concept as a word, its concept of doing things to improve  farming into the future has been going on for centuries. In Australia, we have only been farming for two centuries, so a lot of discovery, innovation and invention has been a part of adapting farming to the conditions found here.

We have many innovators on farms. Farmers change the way they farm. Farmers modify their machinery or methods to improve their food production and economic results. Farmers change the ways they look after the environment that supports their farm.

Farming communities are so used to their farmers doing this that they don’t think  of this as using Science, or farmers as being ‘Scientists’. Farmers may, or may not, have university degrees, but if they don’t have the practical Science knowledge in many fields of plants, animals and machinery, and are  able to use that on their unique patch, their farms will not continue to be productive.  So I would argue that they are also Scientists in the broad meaning of  this word.

In this year, 2013, when the National Science Week theme for schools is a Century of Australian Science, I would like to recognise  the farming community for their Science innovations – discoveries and inventions, which in the long-term contribute to sustainable farming. Consider the range in the table below – which is still only a selection of what has been done in the 20th Century.

table of farming inventions

Some 20th Century Australian Farm Discoveries (Knowledge and Inventions) for Farming

Many of these inventors were farmers, not specialist Scientists,  who drew on the Science that was part of their daily life to solve problems and create  – inventions!  Most of these discoveries and inventions were such breakthroughs, that they were quickly adopted and continue to benefit farming enterprises.

Some examples of Australian 20th C Grain Farming Inventions

Below are some examples, set out in a table, which focus on a few inventions,  a brief comment on their contribution to  sustainability in farming and each with a pdf link. Each pdf has the basic information the invention, why it was needed, how it worked, what it looked like, who did it, why it was important and further discussion about how it contributed(s) to sustainability and resources (book and web) where you can find more information and photos.  Each pdf ends with some activities to explore it from a Maths of Planet Earth view.  This is a summary of some of these inventions with a focus on some Crop farming inventions (listed below)  National Science Week 2013 web

inventor invention discovery aid to sustainability year link to pdf
James Alston gearless windmill gears could be put in a weather- proof case,  needed less maintenance reduced the danger that windmills could rust,stop working, and stock would be without water.increased farmer efficiency 1917 Alston gearless windmill
Philip Avery Econ Fodder Roller that hay could be rolled into a bale saved time in haymaking, picked up all hay, saved time in feeding stock,increased farmer efficiency 1961  Averys Econ Fodder Roller
Robert Mailler Beeline technologies how to use GPS for auto-steering a tractor straight evenly spaced lines saves fuel, seed, time and money . increased farmer efficiency 1994 Beeline navigator
Lewis Bandt Ford Coupe Utility vehicle how to spread the weight from the heavy tray across a lightweight front of a cab saved on spending on two vehicles 1934 Bandts Ford Ute
Albert Fuss Gyral Air Seeder how to plant seed with air saved on wear on soil from heavy combines, led to use in no-till and conservation farming 1956  Gyral air seeder
Alf Hannaford Picklers seed could be coated with copper sulphate to stop smut in the plant, this could be done as a wet, then a dry method prevented crop losses from smut 1915, 1924 Hannafords Pickler
Taylor Self –propelled auto-header that a machine which cuts, reaps and threshes wheat could also not need a tractor didn’t waste by mowing down the first part of the crop when it went into a paddock,saved time and labour by combining three harvest processes 1934 Sunshine SP auto-header

At the end of the information about the inventions on each pdf, there is a is a set of exercises in blue printing that support the global project Maths of Planet Earth 2013.  For more background about the exercises on the pdfs above , go to Shape Sleuths for Machinery .

For a quick link into a range of Australian Scientist websites, this one from the Uni of Sydney is rather good : Famous Australian Scientists . It covers all the Sciences not just those related to farming.

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page updated 2 June 2013, 8 August 2013

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