THE PROGRESSIVE FARMER – JOEL REICHENBERGER – Autonomous-tractor applications displayed on the fields of this year’s Farm Progress Show highlight two potential directions for the future use of the technology.
In one, a John Deere 8000 Series tractor was transformed to run driverless by Smart Ag, an Ames-based company that’s been turning heads with its AutoCart software Application. In another, FARB Guidance Systems (FGS) showed off its work with a small fleet of Caterpillar skid steers.
Autonomous-tractor technology has been popping up with demonstrations around the globe, but unleashing these functions at the farm machinery show was still a first and something in which each company took pride.
However, all the confidence in the world doesn’t change the fact that there were 15 tons of steel rolling around a field without anyone behind the wheel in case of emergency.
As Mark Barglof, Smart Ag chief technology officer, showed off Smart Ag’s tech, he made sure early in his presentation to display a safety mechanism, a small square box with an antenna at the top and just one bright red button on its face: an emergency stop/kill switch.
With FARB Guidance Systems, concern for safety was designed into the system from the idea’s conception. What’s one advantage of a fleet of miniature drone tractors compared to one full-sized machine?
FGS’s Ries Escure, standing right at the edge of the field where the small skid steers ran, motioned to several nearby large row-crop tractors.
Picture: Progressive Farmer photo by Joel Reichenberger
A John Deere 8320R runs autonomously along with other unmanned big hardware at the 2018 Farm Progress Show.