Autonomous farming implements are coming to a paddock near you if the SeedMaster company has its way. SeedMaster started selling its DOT units this year and says it intends changing farming across the globe.
While many farmers might think the remote-controlled tractor is still just an interesting idea or far-fetched laboratory project, SeedMaster CEO Leah Olson-Friesen said her company’s technology was a commercial reality.
“We are making it cheaper to buy a power platform,” she said, “and the implements are, relatively speaking, cheaper as well.” The DOT machine can already work as a seeder, sprayer and grain cart.
The DOT is just one approach to autonomous operation in agriculture, but it challenges many existing assumptions in farm machinery.
Instead of pulling equipment, it carries it, which changes the power it requires and how it projects that power. It also operates as an interchangeable power supply for various implements, sliding into seeder, sprayer and grain cart implement attachments. Instead of needing multiple engines or an independent tractor to power each unit, the DOT can swap out its roles.
More implements are being tested and considered, such as land rollers and rock pickers, with most likely to be supplied by third party manufacturers.
The origin of the DOT machine was in the seemingly unquenchable desire on the Canadian prairies for increased efficiency and productivity and the chronic shortage of labour to work the farms there.
For 2019, farmers who buy a DOT will be required to supervise it, Olson-Friesen said, because even though the system has been tested in both Canada and the United States, the way real farmers use it on real farms might create some unforeseen circumstances or challenges.
The early adopters will see the technology develop, she said, with artificial intelligence helping analyse and develop the system as the machinery, the system and farmers interact.