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Agriculture and food
Rotavator rotary hoe
self-propelled rotary hoe for farming

In 1912, 16-year-old Cliff Howard of Gilgandra had an idea that forever changed the way small farms were cultivated. To make hoeing more efficient, Howard fixed a number of hoe blades to a powered axle so that they would rotate and dig the earth while pulling forward at the same time. All the farmer had to do was walk behind and steer using bicycle-type handles.

At it's peak in 1970, his company exported 100 000 rotavators to 120 countries. Australia's farm machinery industry at the time was heavily protected by tariffs on imports. When these tumbled in the 1970s manufacturing rotary hoes was no longer competitive and the factory closed.

Rotary hoes are now made overseas in countries where small farms are the norm.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
Howard Auto Cultivators Pty Ltd : R&D, design, manufacture

Austral Auto Cultivators Pty Ltd : financed early R&D
Key People
Cliff Howard : inventor, designer
Everard McCleary : Howard's partner

Further Reading
Australian inventions and innovations
R Ingpen
Rigby, Adelaide, 1982, pp 19-21.

A history of tractors in Australia

One of the earliest Howard rotary cultivators. Courtesy Graeme Clegg.
A 1952 advertisement for the Howard ?Twelve? tractor and hoe. Source: Australian Tractors 1990, G R Quick ? used by permission.
ATSE Powerhouse Museum