DOT launches program to reserve autonomous machines starting in 2019

The DOT Power Platform

After unveiling its autonomous field work platform last summer, Saskatchewan-based DOT Technology Corp has opened up a program for potential customers to reserve spots in the production line for the machine.

The sister company to SeedMaster sent an email to prospective purchasers this week, explaining how to get in line to buy the U-shaped robot. It’s a process that’s similar to what Tesla has done to assess demand and initiate sales of its electric cars.

People who want to purchase a DOT machine in the future can indicate their preferred purchase quantity and production year, choosing between 2019 and 2022, in exchange for a C$1000 deposit per unit.

Trent Meyer is the executive vice-president of DOT Technology Corp. We asked him a few questions regarding plans for DOT production:

What does a farmer get in exchange for this reservation payment?

TM: For the reservation, farmers receive an opportunity to be one of the first owners of DOT in their area. Ultimate timing comes down to our geographical roll-out around support networks, but we will do our best to deliver to everyone in the year that they have requested them. As reservations are already at the estimated 2019 maximum, there will be some jockeying for position and resources in the coming weeks.

What’s the timeline for getting into production?

TM: Prior to release of this program we were planning for a fair sized run, 25-30 units, for 2019, and over 100 for 2020, growing significantly from thereon out. The beauty of identifying demand in this way is that we are able to also pre-plan the need for support, prioritize implement relationship development with other manufacturers based on cropping practices, and look at how to enhance experience.

Any update on the plan for manufacturing attachments? Are other manufacturers getting involved?

TM: Development on the SeedMaster implements is going well. We have one Letter-of-Intent signed and others in the works, but again the reservation process will push this along. It is a classic horse/cart scenario, as every manufacturer is limited in engineering resources so if we can show the demand for their products there will be opportunities to move slower or faster.

Any update on pricing? Attachment pricing?

TM: We are still working on final pricing, but the power unit is estimated at $250,000 USD and the four SeedMaster-developed attachments are approximately the same amount. We are constantly working to better the cost structure so that we are able to be more competitive in the market.

Given the rapid pace of innovation, any changes to tech in the machine since unveiling it last summer?

TM: Yes. Quite a few. Some we can speak about, but others that out of respect for our development team we will hang tight on until we get a little further. The user interface development has been fantastic, and at the end of the day that will be a huge benefit to buyers. Much of the rest isn’t obvious to the naked eye. The intuitive nature of what we are building really speaks to the farmer focus of the development.

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Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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