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Toft cane harvesters
machines for harvesting sugar cane

In the early 1960s Toft Bros in Bundaberg introduced the first commercially successful mechanical sugarcane harvester. Soon after, Massey Ferguson began to manufacture cane harvesters and within a few years the Australian sugar cane crop was being cut mostly by machine - a goal of numerous farmers and small companies, who had tried but failed to make reliable mechanical harvesters over the years.

Both Toft Bros and Massey Ferguson exported their harvesters to Cuba and other cane growing countries, and established a new Australian industry based in Bundaberg. By 1980 world sugar prices had plummeted, the Massey Ferguson factory had closed and Toft Bros had been bought out by a succession of foreign owners

In 1986 Toft's executives borrowed money to buy back the company and renamed it Austoft. In 1993, the company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and in 1996 it was acquired by Case Corporation Pty Limited. At the end of the century Austoft was continuing to play a major role in the development of technology in the Australian sugar cane industry.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
Toft Bros Industries Ltd : design, manufacture
Key People
Harold Toft : inventor, director Colin Toft : inventor, director

Further Reading
?The canecutters?, G Burrows & C Morton, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1986, pp 175-187.

Austoft case study (pdf)
Australian Sugar Industry
How sugar is made
Sugar Research and Development Corporation
Sugar Research Institute

An advertisement for an early model cane harvester. Courtesy Austoft Industries.
ATSE Powerhouse Museum