John Deere, a 185-year-old company known for its heavy-metal tractors, bulldozers and lawnmowers painted in the company’s distinctive green and yellow colors has launched a self-driving version of an 8R tractor.
A self-driving version of the 8R agricultural tractor has been in the works for nearly two decades, thanks to investments in automation, data analytics, GPS guidance, internet-of-things connectivity and software engineering, as well as a flurry of acquisitions and partnerships with agtech startups, harvesting know-how and talent.
One such collaboration is with Global Unmanned Spray System Automation, which has developed semi-autonomous orchard and vineyard sprayers, and AI startup Light.
A 120-foot-wide boom on the autonomous tractor is equipped with six pairs of stereo cameras that can detect an obstacle in the field, be it a rock, a tree trunk or a person, and determine its size and relative distance. Images captured by the cameras are processed by a deep neural network that classifies each pixel in about 100 milliseconds and determines whether the tractor should drive on or stop.
Deere also boosts value and profit by retrofitting established automated systems to its existing tractors, such as GPS-based self-steering and precision seeding, which measures how deep and far apart to plant.
In an effort to achieve fully autonomous agriculture by 2030, “This comes from our realization that technology is going to drive value creation and increase farmers” productivity, profitability and sustainability for farmers,” said Jorge Heraud, vice president for automation and autonomy at Deere in Moline, Illinois.
The sources for this piece include an article in CNBC.