Without exaggeration, every facet of agriculture is affected at some level by automation. In 2019, three significant technologies are making noise on U.S. farms. To learn more and watch each of these autonomous machines in action, visit bit.ly/driverless-2019.
Connect the DOT: Plug-and-Play Implements
DOT is “exceptionally simple” to connect to equipment, according to Leah Olson, CEO of Dot Technology Corp and SeedMaster Manufacturing (sister companies sharing DOT ownership): “The U-shape platform approaches an implement, picks it up and locks it in place.”
Reaching up to 12 mph, DOT is powered by a 173-hp Cummins diesel engine, which drives a hydrostatic pump for each wheel and a fifth for implement operation. The driverless machine operates according to GPS coordinates approved by the farmer or a hand-held remote. Because of government regulations, Olson says operators are advised to stay within sight of the DOT machine this year.
For spring 2019, compatible implements include a 30' SeedMaster drill, a 120'-boom Pattison Connect sprayer and a SeedMaster grain cart.
Full Automation: Grain Cart Summons on Command
Smart Ag develops autonomous solutions for row crop agriculture, and the Ames-based company’s latest innovation is AutoCart. The AutoCart kit includes hardware, wire harnessing and sensors—machine learning intended for simple setup and operation.
“Total installation by a dealer can be completed in less than eight hours, and once installed, you just run the AutoCart app on your tablet. There are only a couple of functions, and it’s very easy,” explains Colin Hurd, founder and CEO of Smart Ag.
Type in a destination on a field map, drop a pin and the tractor heads for the destination. When the combine is full, request synchronization and the tractor drives alongside, allowing for unloading. “The biggest value is to have a grain cart when you need it, because so many farms struggle to find seasonal labor to do jobs well,” Hurd says.
A Core Solution: Automated Soil Sampling Skid Steer
In 2013, Troy Fiechter was tired of spending $75 per acre on soil fertility on his Indiana farm, prior to nitrogen application, and getting sketchy results. Relying on an ag engineering background, he turned a skid steer into SmartCore, an automated vehicle aimed at precision soil sampling, provided as a service, not sold as a product. “First, we made our machine drive itself to ensure location repeatability. We added an auger at 800 rpm with a cleaning collar to ensure soil is extracted at the precise depth, and developed onboard packaging and software to accommodate any farmer’s needs,” explains Fiechter, CEO of West Lafayette-based Rogo.
The SmartCore vehicle, which operates at a 500-acre capacity without stopping and can hold up to 200 samples, is available in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio, with plans to expand into other Midwestern states.