Electric and autonomous tractors: Is this the future of farming?

For Japan, where many farmers are reaching retirement age, the Kubota “dream tractor” proffers a replacement worker that can not only navigate its way around the paddock but also make decisions like when to hoe, sow and harvest.

CNH’s concept tractor does maintain the driver cab so the operator can perform tasks not presently suited to automation, such as commuting between fields or going through suburban or rural community roads to reach a farm.

The incorporation of technology into agriculture has allowed farmers to increase efficiency in their farms. The introduction of technology into the management of farms by the farmers and other agricultural stakeholders has facilitated the farmers to get high yields and produce in the farm while using less inputs and resources.

The future success of agriculture is still heavily dependent on technology and how well farmers and other agricultural stakeholders are able to leverage the overall benefits of technology and tailor make them to be used for the benefit of the agricultural sector. One such technology that is going to make a very big difference in the field of agriculture going into the future is the autonomous tractor.

The autonomous tractor employs high-tech systems and sensors to enable it move around without being manned by a driver. To enable it move around the autonomous tractor will be remotely monitored and directed by a farmer or a technician who is not on site. The tractor will be directed remotely by directing it into areas of the farm that have already been mapped. To enable it avoid obstacle it will be fitted with obstacle detection sensors that will enable it stop so as to enable the obstacles to clear before it continuous with its journey.

In extreme cases where the obstacle is permanent, the autonomous tractor will stop and send a signal to the farmer or the operator. After receiving the signal, the farmer or the operator will then direct the autonomous tractor around the obstacles with the help of high definition cameras fitted into the autonomous tractor. Into the future therefore, the introduction of autonomous tractors will ensure that the farmer is effective and efficient in his or her farming routine. The autonomous tractors will ensure that the framers extend the use of technology in farming while at the same time ensuring that minimum resources and time is used in the planting, crop maintenance and also harvesting.

The use of autonomous tractors is the future of agriculture. Autonomous tractors will enable farmers to fully automate their operations and therefore reducing all the disadvantages that always face farmers as a result of human labour in agriculture. The use of autonomous tractors also heralds a future for agriculture where the farmers will able to optimize their output while using very limited and less resources to achieve this, this will therefore increase productivity in agriculture.

Autonomous tractors allow the farmer to work longer hours owing to the fact that exhaustion and fatigue related to farm workers who work with the normal tractors is eliminated. Owing to this, a farmer is able to map out his or her farm and control the autonomous tractors to go into the farm even at night. One of the advantages related to the use of autonomous tractors in the farm is that it reduces all the downsides related to human handling of the farm equipment.

Indeed, battery power (specifically related to torque) and charging challenges continue to limit the scalability of electrically-driven farm equipment – despite exponential increases in the technology’s overall effectiveness.

This is a reality, and a major reason why many of us, at least in my part of the world, remain skeptical of electric technology’s ability to usurp diesel in the field. The scalability just doesn’t seem there.

Picturing electric-drive technology solely in the guise of large machines hauling tillage equipment is a limiting perspective. As the two aforementioned experts mentioned to me, electric motors are perfectly suited for low-duty tasks, such as operating manure pumps and shuttling implements around the farmyard.

First, it’s easy to picture an electric tractor, or even a stationary electric motor in some cases, replacing a typical fossil-fuel tractor in these jobs. Really, tractors are not even needed for many of these tasks (e.g. scraping barn alleyways, operating a power take-off driven mill, etc.), though as often happens, whatever piece of equipment is available is generally assigned the task.

 Environmental considerations aside, that means they’re not burning money for ever hour of work as well as idle time. That’s cash in my pocket, and certainly something to consider in determining the return-on-investment of such machines.

 It’s not a given that large-scale equipment itself will always be dominant. The trend towards larger equipment might be something experienced now and in the past, but what about the emergence of smaller and autonomous machines (the DOT Power Platform or Fendt’s Xaver ”swarm farming” units come to mind).

The Future is here- and we need to except new technolgy.