There’s no question that the number of new product introductions from Canadian short-line manufacturers so far this year has been low, at least when compared to what we’ve seen over the last five-or-so years. During that time the weeks leading up to Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina would see my email inbox almost always flooded with press releases. This year, not so much. In fact, there were none at all.
There were new things to see at that show, however. In general, though, most were best described as minor updates. But this week one of those short-liners, SeedMaster, has made up for that news drought and gone nuclear—to coin a phrase. Their bombshell announcement this week that they have a fully autonomous implement platform, the DOT, that will hit the market, albeit in limited release, next year has chins hitting the floor. It is arguably a bigger announcement than when the CNH brands unwrapped their autonomous tractor prototypes last year at the U.S. Farm Progress Show.
That’s because it makes the conventional field tractor, as we’ve come to know it, obsolete. That’s no surprise, though. Many companies have been working on self-contained robots like DOT.
DOT Technology Corp., a spinoff of SeedMaster, is the official brand behind the robot, autonomous vehicle, droid, whatever you want to call it. The idea, as I understand it so far, is that the DOT is a self-propelled 164 horsepower carrier that is designed to carry various implement bodies. Once attached to something like one of SeedMaster’s special seed drills, it can go to work on its own. It can also be controlled through a remote controller, like a model airplane.
The SeedMaster drill designed for it has a 30-foot working width and turns sideways for on-road travel; meaning transport width is just 12 feet.
DOT will make its first public debut at the Ag in Motion farm show in Saskatoon in three weeks. And it will do daily field demos there. If that isn’t a reason to go to the show, what is? Then you can tell your grandkids you were there to see the first droid designed for fieldwork in western Canada.
With an announced market release date less than a year away, I suspect the SeedMaster management team is expecting DOT to revolutionize ag machines the way the Model T changed automotive history.
Of course, there is only limited public information so far on the full details of how DOT will function or what it will cost, but if the social media response from farmers is any indication, I think DOT is the droid those early-adopter farmers have been waiting for.
The question now is, what will happen to the very large, high-capacity conventional drills and implements with heavy digital components those first-adopter farmers have been spending large amounts of money on in the last decade. You know, the old-fashioned stuff—that sounds very weird to say.