May 20, 2024

Future of autonomous farming equipment taking shape

ORLANDO, Fla. — The use of driverless ag equipment might seem like something from a science fiction movie, but it’s gaining ground on farms today.

And some of that technology was on display to farmers from around the world at the Commodity Classic in Orlando, as equipment manufacturers set their sights on improved ag efficiencies.

“We are committed to moving forward as an industry,” said Matt Olson, precision ag manager for John Deere. “When you look at the future, we continue to evolve at an increasingly fast pace because of technology.”

John Deere released its first autonomous tractor for tillage operations last year — 8R tractors with a TruSet-enabled chisel plow, GPS guidance and advanced technologies.

The unit features six pairs of stereo cameras, which enable 360-degree obstacle detection and calculation of distance.

And it’s just the first in what Deere envisions as an entire lineup of autonomous equipment.

“We are committed by 2030 to have a fully autonomous production system for row crops, from planting and spraying to harvest and tillage,” Olson said.

And it could radically change how farmers manage their operations.

“We’ve gone from managing the whole farm, to fields and more recently to zones,” Olson said. “When you look at the technology we have now, we’re able to manage at the plant level through sensors, machine learning and through automation.”

Deere’s new See and Spray Ultimate is one example. The new technology can reduce non-residual herbicide use by more than two-thirds by target spraying weeds.

See and Spray Ultimate uses 36 cameras on a 120-foot sprayer boom to scan more than 2,100 feet at once to apply herbicide only to weeds it detects. Its ExactApply nozzle control technology also helps reduce potential drift.

The latest See and Spray advancements are for model year 2023 John Deere 410R, 412R and 612R sprayers.

Deere also unveiled new ExactRate technology this year to precisely monitor and control applications of liquid fertilizer during planting.

ExactRate is compatible with select models of John Deere planters with electric drive, including 1775NT, 1795, DB60, DB44 and DB66 units.

How do farmers prepare for automated technology?

Olson recommends they get comfortable with the JD Operations Center, gain expertise in how to work with a connected machine and make sure their farms have high-fidelity boundaries.

Meanwhile, Case IH advanced its development of autonomous technology when it unveiled its TriDent 5550 sprayer with Raven Autonomy at last year’s Farm Progress Show.

Farmers can run the applicator with Raven Autonomy from any mobile device.

“That’s considered supervised autonomy,” Kendal Quandahl, Case IH precision technology marketing manager from Waterloo, told FarmWeek at the Commodity Classic. “You can have multiple machines in one field controlled by one operator.”

Case IH introduced the autonomous sprayer through market research with farmers, who identified field applications as one of their top labor pain points, Quandahl noted.

“One of the spotlights for us is the path to autonomy Case IH is working towards,” she said. “One of the biggest things we have to help producers understand is it’s not just a driverless machine, but rather a series of automated equipment.”

Case IH also recognized past achievements in ag equipment design at the Commodity Classic as it continued its celebration of the 100-year anniversary of Farmall, an original brand of International Harvester.

“We’re very excited about the past and innovations on farms from 1923 to today,” said Joe Miller, Case IH tractor market segment lead. “We’re kicking off the next 100 years of Farmall.”

Case IH recently launched new Farmall 90 and 120 model tractors, geared toward specialty markets.

The company is also giving away a Farmall 75C tractor as part of the 100-year celebration.

Visit the website, Farmall100.com, for more information about that or go to CaseIH.com to learn about all the latest innovations.

This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association.