Agriculture automation has the potential to reshape the farming industry in the 2020s and beyond.
A new analysis from Bloomberg shows robot farm equipment is becoming commercially available, which means tractors will have no cabs – able to spray, plant, plow, and weed cropland with artificial intelligence.
Autonomous farming is a popular theme among all farming equipment manufacturers. Several years ago, the Australian government studied robot tractors from John Deere, Case New Holland, CNH Industrial, AGCO, CLAAS, Same Deutz-Fahr, and Kubota. The key takeaway from the matrix below is that Deere and CNH are leading when it comes to making tractors fully autonomous, with both companies having released working prototypes.
Bloomberg notes that several startups in Canada and Australia have already made their autonomous farm equipment commercially available.
In Saskatchewan, a Canadian province that borders the US, Dot Technology Corp. sold fully autonomous power platforms for the spring planting season.
In Australia, SwarmFarm Robotic is selling weed-killing robots that can also mow and spread. These companies say their new machines are much smaller and efficient than traditional field equipment.
Sam Bradford, a farm manager at Arcturus Downs in Australia’s Queensland state, was one of the first adopters of SwarmFarm’s robots last year. He has four truck-sized weed-killing robots to manage thousands of acres.
Before, Bradford had used a Case Patriot 4430 Sprayer with a 120-foot boom that “looks like a massive praying mantis.” It would cover the field in chemicals, he said.
However, robots are more precise than traditional sprayers. Bradford said his robots work 20,000 acres, will save him 80% of his chemical costs.
“The savings on chemicals is huge, but there’s also savings for the environment from using less chemicals and you’re also getting a better result in the end,” said Bradford, who’s run the farm for about 10 years. Surrounding rivers run out to the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s eastern cost, making the farm particularly sensitive over its use of chemicals, he said.
Costs savings have become important as a deepening trade war has sparked a potential agriculture recession in the US.