Automated tractors ploughing ahead

Case IH pilot driverless tractors with Campbell Soup Company, Bolthouse Farms


On Farm
Supervised autonomy is one of the five categories of automation as defined by Case IH, it is when an operator in one tractor supervises the operation of a tractor in the same field without an operator

Supervised autonomy is one of the five categories of automation as defined by Case IH, it is when an operator in one tractor supervises the operation of a tractor in the same field without an operator

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Case IH pilot driverless tractors with Campbell Soup Company, Bolthouse Farms

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IN A bold move, Case IH is not only taking the lead in automated technology, it is defining the playing field. 

Moving ahead on it’s autonomous agenda, the big red brand is piloting driverless tractors in real-life farming scenarios. 

At the same time, the company has released categories to define future automated technology.

Case IH, advanced farming systems global product manager, Robert Zemenchik, said while the companies autonomous concept tractor, revealed in 2016, showed one version of what was possible, it was only one concept. 

“This working tractor provided a platform for us to start discussions with farmers and the industry about the technology needed for high efficiency farming operations today and in the future,” he said. 

“We’re ready to show how automation and autonomy applies across agriculture and how it can advance the precision farming solutions our customers are currently using on their farms.”

Mr Zemenchik said the five categories which make up the Case IH automation framework are guidance, co-ordination and optimisation, operator assisted automation, supervised autonomy and full autonomy.

Case IH defined categories of autonomy and automation in agricultural field
applications

Case IH defined categories of autonomy and automation in agricultural field applications

“It’s exciting to explore the efficiencies that automation and eventually, full autonomy can bring to each farming operation,” he said.

“The logic behind the categories is to provide a vision of what’s possible.

Mr Zemenchik said the categories could be looked at as a spectrum, shifting from least to most autonomy. 

“They are not linear, and a given fleet may even fit into more than one category at a time.

“Today, many of our customers are already operating in the guidance or operator assisted automation categories.”

Mr Zemenchik said Case IH auto-guidance, automated headland turning technology and seedbed sensing technology were all examples on the spectrum of automation. 

Case IH also announced a collaboration with Bolthouse Farms to pilot autonomous tractors. 

Bolthouse Farms is one of North Americas largest carrot producers and is a division of the Campbell Soup Company. 

Mr Zemenchik said the goal of the program is to understand how new autonomous technology can be used and how it meets real-world, on-farm requirements.

“The only way to validate on-farm uses for autonomous technology is, quite literally, with field pilots where farmers use it on their own farm, integrate it into their own fleet and conduct their everyday activities,” he said. 

Mr Zemenchik said the pilot program will focus on primary and deep tillage, as both are highly repetitive tasks conducted all year round.  

The pilot will use a small fleet of autonomous Steiger and Quadtrac tractors pulling a True-Tandem disk harrow or Ecolo-Tiger disk ripper.

“One of the primary goals is to receive agronomic and operator feedback on the use of autonomous technology in real-world farm conditions,” Mr Zemenchik said. 

“So we can further develop and refine our technological control and machine optimisation systems.

“Additionally, we will be able to learn from Bolthouse Farms what uses they envision for automation and autonomy that we might not have already thought of.”

Bolthouse Farms, vice president of agriculture, Brian Grant, said the pilot program was an opportunity to find new ways to make the company’s operation more efficient and deliver high-quality food for the growing population.

“We’re just now starting to play the ‘what if?’ game,” he said.

“We’re asking ourselves and the Case IH engineers the questions about what autonomous tractors are capable of.

“The answers to these questions are not ‘if.’ It’s ‘when.’”

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The story Automated tractors ploughing ahead first appeared on Farm Online.

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