Driverless machinery and 3D printing: future of farming on display
70 years ago, farmers saw an industry-changing shift from horses to tractors.
Now, Norman Beaujot says it’s time for another evolution: to driver-less, and tractor-less equipment.
“The farmers are already technically evolved to auto steer, auto rate control, a bunch of autonomous functions,” The DOT Tech Corp. founder said. “It didn’t seem that big a step to take the monitor farmers are used to watching in the tractor and take it out to keep in their half-ton and monitor a bunch of machinery at the same time.”
His U-shaped robot, DOT, can latch on to anything from a seeder to a grain cart tank. It’s controlled by a farmer with a tablet acting as a remote control. Traction sensors can detect any slip risk, while a trip wire will halt the machine if there’s something in its path.
“It’s way safer and we’re way more advanced than autonomous cars because we don’t have near the safety issues,” He added. “When you’re in the middle of a big open farmer’s field there’s very few obstacles to be concerned about.”
25 DOTs will be constructed next year, with farmers putting deposits on another 60 for 2020.
At the other end of Canada’s Farm Progress Show, a Saskatchewan-based 3D printing company is looking to make its mark on the agriculture industry.
In the past two years, a growing number of farmers have been coming in to 3D print custom or replacement pieces, rather than waiting weeks on end for orders to arrive.
“There’s lots of electronics involved, tons of very small pieces, everything needs to work together,” Creative Cafe co-owner Lance Greene explained. “If the littlest thing fails, you might get sensor errors causing issues, but with 3D printer technology, you can fix a lot of those problems yourself.”
The group has been able to print with a number of farm-sturdy materials and even replicate older, worn-down parts. One farmer has even bought a 3D printer of his own.
While farming still requires a special kind of grit, it looks like the job could be getting more convenient in the future.
“You’ve got to be a special kind of stupid to be out there,” Farmer Miles Lund laughed. “But some of us still love doing it.”
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