Humans have come a long way in our seed planting endeavours; from hunching over, labouriously digging seeds into the earth with our bare hands to cruising through fields with machines and attachments that do the job for us automatically.
One Australian company has played a huge part in the evolution of seeding machines; the inventors of the air seeder, Gyral. The company was founded on an invention which sprouted from the restless mind of South Australian farmer, Albert Fuss. In the early fifties, Al retired to a sprawling property in Queensland’s Dalby. But, unable to quell his active spirit, Al ditched the whole ‘relax and unwind’ side of retirement in favour of inventing a revolutionary seeding concept.
According to Albert’s son, Roy Fuss, the invention was inspired by,
“…the extraordinary wet and difficult year experienced by the farming community in 1956. Farmers everywhere were having difficulty planting with combine drills that simply could not cope with the tight, compacted soil and the large amounts of surface trash. My father came up with a lightweight air seeder which could be mounted onto a chisel plough, plus it had the added bonus of handling all types of cereals.”
Stoked with Albert’s invention, the Fuss family built a prototype (which they mounted on a Graham Hoeme Chisel Plough) applied for a provisional patent and brought the world’s first commercial air seeder to the market in 1956. The Gyral moniker comes from the gyroscopic action of the impellor which spins and blows the seeds down the hose to the tyne.
How the air seeder fits in seeding machine history
Seed drills had been around for a while before Albert’s invention, giving farmers the ability to plant seeds at equal distances and a precise, ideal depth. Even the earliest versions of the machines were revolutionary for agriculture as they allowed farmers to uniformly distribute seeds, without having to backtrack. They also ensured all seeds were covered by earth, saving them from ending up in bird bellies. And the uniform distribution of crops makes weed management a far easier task.
This control and precision creates an environment in which seeds are able to germinate consistently within their bed of quality soil. Even before the advent of Gyral, a simple, 18th century seed drill was shown to produce crop yields eight times as large as hand-sowing.
Today’s air seeders are even more advanced. The seeds are distributed from a central hopper, by a hydraulic-powered fan, into a distribution head which metes them out into pipes which, in turn, shoot the seed to the coulters. While it got its start in Australia, the technology has spread all over the world and there’s now a vast array of air seeders on the market, all with different takes on the basic concept.