WeedSeeker lifts spray demand

John Hathaway is managing a busy spraying season, enhanced after adding selective spot-spraying WeedSeeker to his Statewide service.
Camera IconJohn Hathaway is managing a busy spraying season, enhanced after adding selective spot-spraying WeedSeeker to his Statewide service. Credit: Countryman

It has been a hectic season so far for spray contractor John Hathaway, and adding a WeedSeeker to his service has only increased demand.

John and his son, Allen, trading as Jarahl Ag Contracting, are based at Wongan Hills, but offer a Statewide contract spray service.

They have sprayed more than 50,000ha since mid-December, including 8000ha with the WeedSeeker they purchased in December.

The 24m Quick Attach WeedSeeker Kit clips on to a gooseneck boom hitched to John’s Toyota Landcruiser.

John and Allen also run a 36.5m Miller Nitro 4365 self-propelled sprayer and they are taking a strong interest in Miller’s Spray-Air system for next season.

The Hathaways have a large contract in the Burracoppin area and included in the contract negotiations was use of a WeedSeeker, which prompted them to invest in the technology.

“We worked out what we would get out of it each season and knew it would work in well,” John said.

“We purchased the WeedSeeker through McIntosh and Son at Kulin and began using it in January. Since then, we’ve done about 8000ha with it.”

The WeedSeeker selective spot-spray system works by emitting a dual-frequency light band, with the reflected light analysed by a sensor looking for the distinct light signature of chlorophyll present in weeds.

If a weed is present, a signal is sent to a solenoid that directs a burst of chemical directly to the weed.

This is performed incredibly fast, with the sensors sampling ground at 79,000 times a second.

The technology offers up to 90 per cent savings in herbicides and operates on suspended booms rather than ground-following booms, avoiding any structural concerns and problems associated with maintaining consistent spraying heights.

As well as getting plenty of use in Burracoppin, the technology is also proving its worth for other growers John is assisting.

He said although the per hectare spraying rate to use the system was more than blanket spraying, once people recognised the results and chemical savings achieved, they would be more than happy.

“Generally, 28 per cent is the cut-off point for a paddock. If it’s starting to go over that, we’ll just switch the WeedSeeker off and within 10 minutes we can be blanket spraying again,” John said.

“We’ve got a client who we do a lot of spraying for in the Hyden-Pingaring area and we’ve used the WeedSeeker over there with great results.

“Hail damage had seen a lot of self-sown barley and clover, which would have been great stock feed, but we were riddled with melons too.

“So we went in with the WeedSeeker and managed to knock the melons out and let the barley and clover grow, leaving him with good sheep feed.

“There was 220ha there and we ended up spraying 8 per cent of it using the WeedSeeker and a low rate mix of glyphosate and ester.

“The farmer worked out that he saved about $2000 in chemicals by not having to spray the whole lot. It worked a treat.”

The Hathaways have another farmer client at Bolgart who requests WeedSeeker for targeting melons, as they recognise the results and know how efficient the technology is and how much it saves them in chemical usage.

John said the technology had really opened the business up and allowed more options for growers.

He said he’s had to knock back quite a lot of work because they are so busy — and that’s without any advertising; purely the result of word-of-mouth.

“It’s been a good, secure investment for us and we’re very happy with the performance,” John said.

“It’s also beneficial because we’re not throwing chemical on bare earth that doesn’t need chemical. It’s a far more environmentally friendly situation.

“It really knocks out weeds because it’s so targeted, which we’ve found is far better on resistant weeds.”

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