Darkan’s Ray Harrington is a true farming legend

Stuart McGuckinSouth Western Times
The innovations of Darkan's Ray Harrington have helped farmers all over the world and closer to home he continues to be a strong contributor to a community he could not think higher of.
Camera IconThe innovations of Darkan's Ray Harrington have helped farmers all over the world and closer to home he continues to be a strong contributor to a community he could not think higher of. Credit: Caro Telfer

Many farmers around Australia and the world would like to shake the hand of Darkan’s Ray Harrington to thank him for what he has done.

The man central to the invention of the crutching cradle, jetting race, v-sheep machine and Harrington Seed Destructor also developed the Harrington No Till system, all of which have made life easier on the farm.

It was such innovations that led to him being named Farming Legend of the Year at the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards in October.

Ray said being named a legend of farming was initially surreal and then humbling.

“I didn’t know much about it to start with,” he said.

“I’m a life member of the bowling club, a life member of the footy club, a life member of the WANTFA (West Australian No Till Farmers Association) – I now look at it as if I’m a life member of farming.”

Ray said it had always been a team effort and that any recognition he received was an acknowledgement of that.

“The most important thing in all of this is that it’s not about what I’ve done, it’s about the group of people I’ve worked with,” he said. “I’ve worked with professors, I’ve worked with engineers, scientists, my two brothers – David and Douglas – and just so many others.

“I’m a little bit like a footy coach getting them to all come together – there is no I in team.”

Darkan farmer and inventor Ray Harrington sits on the original Harrington Seed Destructor in 2013.
Camera IconDarkan farmer and inventor Ray Harrington sits on the original Harrington Seed Destructor in 2013. Credit: Danella Bevis

The Harrington Seed Destructor took 25 years to develop and won an Edison Award in May 2015 in recognition of its international significance.

The machine was designed to combat herbicide resistance by devitalising weed seeds into chaff during harvest.

“Twenty five years ago I decided to attack weeds in a different way and that was to kill the seeds with the header instead of putting them back on the ground,” Ray said.

“That idea was not new – it had been around for 50 years – and neither was the technology I used – it had been around for more than a century.

“They call me an inventor, but I think innovator suits me better.”

Ray said he thought approaching problems from a different angle was in his genetics.

“I saw it in my dad, my two brothers, my uncles and I see it in my nephews still now,” he said.

“My mother was a great one for saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.

“On a farm, if you need to do stuff, you just build something to do it.

“Everything I’ve ever done has been about looking at our program and trying to do things better – my philosophy has always been ‘who dares, wins’.”

Darkan farmer Ray Harrington and nephew Tim Harrington discuss the technique for improving his canola harvesting technique to save wastage in 1999.
Camera IconDarkan farmer Ray Harrington and nephew Tim Harrington discuss the technique for improving his canola harvesting technique to save wastage in 1999.

Ray has travelled the world delivering presentations about how farms can become more efficient, but closer to home he is also a prominent member of many communities.

He worked for 21 years at the State level of the WA grain industry, was the inaugural chairman of the CBH producers council and the founding chairman of WANTFA.

For more than a decade he has served on the West Arthur Shire Council and is now shire president.

He is tremendously proud of his community because it “just gets on and does stuff”.

At the age of 72 he continues to work on the farm, but thinks it’s time to start stepping back a little.

“Right now the community is going through a phase where the next generation is taking over,” he said.

“I’ll just continue doing what I want to while living in a great little community – as a lot of Wheatbelt communities are.”

Darkan farmer and inventor Ray Harrington with his latest invention set to wage war on herbicide-resistant weeds in 2010.
Camera IconDarkan farmer and inventor Ray Harrington with his latest invention set to wage war on herbicide-resistant weeds in 2010. Credit: Lara Ladyman

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails