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  • The sun has set on the module builder with the coming of the new John Deere round bale picker.

    Burgeoning cotton prices and water availability have helped resuscitate the Australian cotton industry which grew a record 4.8 million bales last season. To cope with higher production pressures, farmers have had to adapt and harness new technology in order to keep a foot in the global market.

    In this respect, John Deere's 7760 round bale pickers have been farmers knight in green armour. The new technology costs $740, 000 and has revolutionised the cotton industry. The round balers allow for ‘non-stop harvesting’ as cotton is stripped and baled in the field, making module builders and ground crew redundant.

    Yet every new technology has its headaches, and the round balers are no exception. Reliability of the machines, sensor malfunctions, the inability for them to be serviced and a lack of spare parts has caused disappointment for some customers.

    Robert Tuck, a cotton farmer from Warren in NSW encountered a plethora of reliability issues, which rendered him three weeks late for harvest.

    “It took John Deere three weeks to get the picker functioning in the end… they more or less rebuilt the machine to get it to work and they still can not tell us what fixed the problem as they don't really know,” Mr. Tuck said.

    This issue is not an anomaly in the industry as many farmers had similar experiences. As a result, Australian Cotton has banded a group of industry volunteers together to become a voice for farmers and an information channel to John Deere management.

    Regional Manager for Cotton Australia Geoff Hunter is part of the picker’s forum which has met with three members of John Deere at the Gold Coast Cotton Conference. Mr Hunter believes communication through the forum is the best way for future change.

    “The reason we established the group was because there were some grower concerns with the pickers and growers were keen to get together and brainstorm solutions. We thought the best way forward was to establish the group so we can work together with John Deere for future changes” he said.

    Disappointed but not deterred, Mr. Tuck like the Australian Cotton picker forum believes that this latest technology is here to stay.

    “I think this technology is the way forward, we just need better communication from John Deere and better backup on faulty machines. Maybe we need another company to manufacture something similar to give them some competition,” Mr Tuck concluded.
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