Article by: Hari Yellina
For the first time, Australian Wool Innovation has stated that it is considering establishing a shearing technology centre to help address the industry’s labour difficulties. AWI chairman Jock Laurie told the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee on Tuesday night that the peak organisation had plans to construct a centre at the Falkiner Research Station in Conargo, NSW. Mr Laurie believes the proposed centre might showcase some of the technologies while also serving as a teaching facility.
The news follows an increase in industry studies looking at how technology may make shearing less labour demanding and safer, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on workforce shortages. The continuous shearer crisis is one of the most pressing issues confronting Australia’s wool sector at the moment, with border restrictions resulting in the loss of the New Zealand wool harvesting crew, which has been a vital supply of labour in the past.
The independently funded Shear Anywhere upright shearing platform developed by NSW and Victorian fine wool producers Burbidge Farms, which is designed to reduce physical strain on shearers while simultaneously improving safety within the shearing shed, has sparked interest throughout the shearing business. Mr Laurie told Senate investigators that they intended to dig deeper into the Shear Anywhere platform. “There will be various shearing platforms and technology,” he added, adding that “additional development work is needed.” “We believe we should take matters into our own hands and work on it.”
The first thing is that if we’re advertising it, it has to be safe, so we have to be sure in ourselves that it’s safe and that we’re not doing anything to cause problems from a work health and safety standpoint. “We’re looking to develop that over the next few months; it’s not finished yet, but there’s also accommodation down there that gives us the opportunity to house people who we can train in this area, so normal shearer training as well as potentially training people on shearer platforms if they turn out to be a very good option for the industry.” Mr Laurie stated that a group from AWI will return to the Falkiner Research Station next week to ensure that the facility was in good working order.