Raven Industries has been a company that has hit the headlines when it comes to developing precision agriculture, and lately, acquisitions.
One of Raven’s latest acquisitions has been Smart Ag, a company working on a perception system that allows machines to “see” their environment and avoid obstacles.
The system — dubbed AutoCart — allows an operator to control a driverless tractor and grain cart directly from the cab of a harvester, making it possible for there to be one driver for just two vehicles.
The technology allows a single operator to drive the harvester and call a tractor with the grain cart — which has been stationed in the field previously— to come up alongside and station the load. When it’s full, the operator can direct the cart to any staging location where it can be unloaded. In the meantime, the farmer can call in another tractor and cart to come alongside as the harvester continues.
Wade Robey, Executive Director of Raven Autonomy, explains in the video below that the reduction in labour is a huge part of the technology, however, it’s not the only benefit.
“As we take this perception system and translate it to even manned systems, it will allow us to increase the intelligence of that machine and allow it to function in a significantly more efficient way. It’s difficult to find trained labor, and putting a relatively untrained person in the cab of a very expensive machine runs the risk of damage to both the equipment and the crop,” Robey explains. “A third benefit of AutoCart is it will also allow more efficient positioning of and usage of the unmanned equipment in the field. All three of these elements will be part of the ultimate value package that farmer would realize.”
Currently, only John Deere 8RX wheeled tractors are compatible, but by next year, Robey says the company plans to have kits for additional brands and types of tractors available. The kit includes the camera, radar, and other technology that allows a full range of view around the tractor and cart. The perception system can see and react to both stationary and moving objects, such as a person or animal walking in its path.
A controlled launch of AutoCart is planned for this fall, with a full release scheduled for the 2021 harvest season.
Check out the full conversation between Robey, and RealAgriculture’s Kara Oosterhuis, below: