A small agricultural museum in Tasmania has acquired a rare piece of agricultural history with the purchase of an ‘Empire’ chaff cutter, shining a light on Australia’s trade in agricultural equipment and farming technology innovations over a century ago.

Empire' chaff cutter, Pearn's Steam World, August 2022

Built in New Zealand in the early 1900s, this fully operational chaff cutter marks an important moment in the creation of agricultural support businesses, when farming developed from single family operations to larger units where contractors began to provide specialist services.

Providing chaff-cutting services to most of the smaller farms and stables in Westbury for many years, it demonstrates the way in which new ideas and technologies were enthusiastically adopted by Australian farmers in the first part of the 20th century.

Pearn’s Steam World, which was established in 1987 to protect the Pearn family’s collection of steam traction engines and farm machinery for future generations, recently acquired the chaff cutter with financial assistance provided by the National Cultural Heritage Account.

As the only complete and working example of a chaff cutter in an Australian public collection, this object has local significance to the Westbury community in Tasmania due to its use in local agriculture and its association with the Pearn family.

The Andrews and Beaven ‘Empire’ chaff cutter will be on display at Pearn’s Steam World as part of its permanent collection.