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Australian Inventions & Products

Rotary Hoe

The rotary hoe (also known as a Rotavator) was one of the most successful Australian inventions of the 20th century.


The Invention of The Rotary Hoe

Howard Rotary Hoe
Gilgandra - Howard Rotary Hoe
An early Howard Rotary Hoe reserved
at the Gilgandra Historical Society

Soil must be tilled (loosened and heaped up) before seeds can be planted.

A 16 year old teenager called Arthur Clifford Howard began working on his invention in Gilgandra New Wales. He noticed his dads steam tractor wasted power its wheels pressed down on the earth before the tilling equipment which was dragged behind it tried to plough through the hard ground. He decided to work on the idea which would use the wheels that ploughed as the moved as they moved through the ground.

Howard In 1912 he built a prototype hoe. It used rotating discs driven by a tractor engine to cut weeds and plants roots and mixes these with the soil. For many crops this method produced top soil more suitable for seeding and growth than convectional ploughs had done. He designed many different rotary hoes models for specific applications including orchards, vineyards, sugarcane and heavy duty hoes for clearing.

In 1928 Howard started the Howard Auto Company near Sydney and by 1929 he was exporting hoes throughout the world. By the 1970’s the company had produced more than 400,0000 hoes sold in more than 120 countries and had operations in 14 countries.

The company has since closed operation but the same basic design is still be made in many countries overseas. 

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