ROBOT FARMERS AND SEWAGE-POWERED CARS: How a Sydney incubator will combat the skilled immigration crackdown

Incomplete Cicada Robot, to be revealed at the Cicada Innovation career fairs. (Source: supplied)

Sydney incubator Cicada Innovations is bringing out the robots to combat the science and technology skills shortage.

The startups in the deep tech hub usually keep their work under wraps, but its residents are briefly seeing the light of day next week to show off their futuristic products to university and high school students.

“With increased restrictions on bringing in talent via the 457 program, it’s now more vital than ever that the deep tech startup ecosystem is proactive in getting local talent engaged and excited as soon as possible,” said Cicada Innovations chief executive Petra Andrén.

“To truly unlock the potential on our own shores, it’s vital we tap into the wealth of knowledge and insights held within our schools, universities, and research institutions.”

The university student event, Emerge, will even have Cicada and startups directly recruiting for interns and employees.

Here are some of the technologies that will be on display at the Emerge and STEMTech Expos at Cicada’s Australian Technology Park facilities:

SwagBot on a cattle farm. (Source: supplied)


SwagBot is a robot that can handle both crops and animals. The omni-directional electric vehicle has a composite chassis that can traverse rugged terrain. Prototypes have already performed successfully in an Australian cattle station environment, with future use expected to contribute towards the goal of autonomous farming.

2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen cell car. (Source: supplied)

Toyota Mirai

The hydrogen cell electric car has long been theoretically possible, but the technology is only now starting to bear fruit with cars like the Mirai. The fuel cells are capable of taking the car for around 550km with water as the only exhaust emission, and the manufacturer says hydrogen can be produced from “virtually anything”, including sewage.

Sonder Design keyboard. (Source: supplied)

Sonder keyboard

Sonder Design has executed a remarkably simple idea – a keyboard where the keys change meaning dynamically according to user behaviour and context. With the key labels printed in electronic ink, the meaning is able to be changed – the letter C, for example, could be control-C for copying to clipboard when the intelligence detects that’s what the user wants to do.

Finally, the computer will know what you mean!

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