Case IH and Raven team up to produce first autonomous spreader

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The North American agriculture industry’s first autonomous fertilizer spreader is debuting in Boone, Iowa, at the Farm Progress Show this week.

Whether farmers are finding it difficult to find skilled workers or simply want to increase efficiencies and free up more man-hours to complete other tasks, the new Case IH Trident 5550 with Raven autonomy may be the solution. Taking the Raven autonomy technology and combining it with the tech stacks from the OmniPower (formerly DOT) and OmniDrive and applying it to the Case IH lineup, the driverless machine can be operated by one person through a laptop or similar (see video below).

The company explains that from a mobile device, operators can plan and complete an entire field operation based on mapped field boundaries. The Raven Autonomy perception system is constantly sensing a 360-degree environment around the machine for obstacles and motion initiation while operating. With artificial intelligence, Raven’s perception controller processes the continuous stream of images, which interprets and detects obstacles. If obstacles are detected, the machine will stop and the operator will receive an alert on their phone, allowing them to then decide on the best course of action. The remote operator can view the cameras through the mobile device at any time.

“You’re running from a command centre, you have a mission planning that’s done prior to sending the vehicles out on their mission. So you could do that remotely. In fact, if we had a wet spot in the field, in that pre-planning, you can say, hey, I want to avoid that too low area, that wet spot, put that into pre-planning. And then you set the vehicles off,” explains Eric Shuman, vice president and general manager of Raven.

This is the first product released following CNH Industrial’s acquisition of Raven in late 2021 and with it hitting the market for testing in just nine months, application, usage and adoption by farmers is now at the forefront before the machine is available to the public.

Brady Fahlman, who farm approximately 10,000 acres near Holldfast, Sask., has been one of the first farmers to use the innovative equipment and says the first run through went well and allowed him time to complete other tasks on his daily to-do list.

“We ran it on 2000 acres in crop dry fertilizing went decently well, we we got up to about 400 acres a day at the end. There’s a learning curve, like with any new technology and new processes. But overall, it went decently well. And we’re looking forward to get it into our fall spreading and being a lot more confident with it,” shares Fahlman.

As stated, with any new process or technology, adjustments and learning are all a part of the process. Fahlman says they had to shuffle around loading trucks and also learned fairly quickly that the more literal and physical obstacles (such as rock piles) a person can remove from their field ahead of time, the easier the operation will be.

Regardless, still an exciting piece of machinery for the farm industry and Schuman says they are working on having the machines available to a select group of customers early on in 2023 and if all goes well, they will be available on a commercial level later in 2023.

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