Updated Dec. 17
Raven Autonomy, the company with now owns the much-discussed DOT Power Platform, has expanded into the harvest season with aftermarket autonomy.
The company recently said its AutoCart was available for order for harvest 2021. AutoCart is an aftermarket system designed to turn non-autonomous tractors into self-driving machines.
Why it matters: Autonomous technologies can be solutions labour and time shortages during the busy harvest season.
The AutoCart system allows growers to remotely set a field plan, establish staging locations, adjust speeds, monitor location activity, and command the tractor pulling a grain cart to sync with the harvester. The harvester can offload in the field while on-the-go, then return the tractor to a predetermined unloading area without the need for a second driver.
It works using a combination of radar mounted on the tractor’s front end, and a five-camera perception system.
The radar notices where things are, while AI programming in the latter determines what things are. Operations are performed through a smartphone, tablet, or desktop interface linked to an AutoCart-specific portal accessed through Raven.
“From the combine the operator can actually call the cart, tell it to come over, find the combine, match its speed, and go exactly side-by-side with the combine, and unload into it on the go,” says Tim Norris, business development manager of autonomy, in a video published by Raven in July.
“It can detect several different obstacles, from humans to pets, to farm animals and combines. Not only can it tell what it’s seeing, but it can look at the path that obstacle is taking across the field. So if the path of the tractor and the path of the obstacle are going to intercept, its going to slow the tractor down and make it come to a stop. Once that’s clear, the operator in the combine can hit a button and proceed with the path or mission.”
According to Raven, the AutoCart system both installs easily, and supports the adoption of future autonomous technology.
With the platform, the company says farmers can use the fleet management tools available today and add autonomous technology features to advance down the path of autonomy as new features and applications become available.
Time and money
Reflective of other aftermarket autonomous systems – such as that being used by custom harvest company Sabanto in the American Midwest – AutoCart is being marketed as a solution for endemic time and labour shortages.
“Harvest is exhausting, and anyone who works on a farm knows the feeling of being shorthanded while trying to beat the weather and bring in their crop at the point that it will yield the maximum economic value,” says Brian Meyer, vice president of applied technology for Raven in a recent press release.
“A single grain cart driver can cover 340 hours in the tractor cab during harvest. By incorporating an autonomous grain cart tractor into their operation, a farmer can use those hours to complete other fall maintenance and tillage tasks and improve their bottom-line efficiency.”
Similar sentiments were previously reflected by Norris.
“One of the most difficult things during harvest is finding enough labour. A lot of people are able to increase the capacity of their combine by about 32 per cent if they’re able to run a grain cart right beside the combine.”
The first release is focused on a John Deere platform. Other machinery brand steering system units will come in the next year or two.
Nick Langerock, sales and marketing manager for Raven says the system will cost about US$55,000.
Updated Dec. 17 to include retail cost.