Autonomy in an agricultural setting is an exciting space to be in. There are a lot of definitions of autonomy out there, and for farming, the first one that applies or that people think of is the advent of auto-steer. But there’s so much more.
Kara Oosterhuis recently caught up with Chris Morson, sales specialist for Raven Applied Technology, at AgSmart in Olds, Alta., to chat about what situations and farming operations can benefit from autonomous equipment and systems.
“When most people think autonomy, they think of things like OMNI-Power or OMNI-Drive, which are two actual platforms that don’t need anybody in the cab with that equipment,” says Morson.
There are a bunch of stages in between auto-steer and OMNI-Drive that will help farmers greatly, says Morson. Labour is an issue in agriculture — finding someone to sit in a piece of equipment and confidently operate it — and there are stages in the range of autonomy that can take pressure off the operator, and also give farm managers the option to keep track of, or change settings on a piece of equipment from afar.
Connectivity is also an issue and a big part of what Raven has brought to boost autonomy is a product called Slingshot, which is a modem that goes in the cab of equipment, designed to work with low cell signal to quickly and effectively move data from one place to another, says Morson.
Morson sees autonomy fitting into operations where all sorts of field work has to happen simultaneously. “The slow, dirty, monotonous jobs will likely be the first ones. That and things that are difficult to get at because of other operations,” he says.
Fall operations, in particular seeding or spreading, can easily be handled by an autonomous unit, and simplifying complicated or intimidating technology is another great fit. What’s more, Raven’s partnership with Olds College means autonomous equipment will be ushered into the next generation quite smoothly.